Hands off Scotland’s powers

It has been a dramatic week for the SNP group at Westminster.

On Tuesday last week the proceedings of the EU Withdrawal Bill included an outrageous attack on the Scottish Parliament.

While Prime Minister Theresa May had previously given assurances that Scotland would be treated as part of a “union of equals”, she showed her true colours when her party pressed ahead with a power grab in direct opposition to the express wishes of the Scottish Parliament.

Not one Scottish MP was given time to speak in the section of the debate on the devolution aspects of the EU Withdrawal Bill.

In fact, that part of the debate was restricted to 15 minutes in the chamber – all of which was taken up by the Tory Government minister.

The SNP voted against the Tory amendments to Clause 15 which takes laws that are devolved in theory but bound in practice by EU law and gives them not to Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast, but to Westminster.

This includes powers over fishing, agriculture, the environment and many other areas defined in the Scotland Act 1998.

It is shameful that the Scottish members of the Labour Party abstained on the vote and let the Tories strip powers from the Scottish Parliament.

The next morning, dismayed at the events of the night before, the SNP group went into Prime Minister’s Questions where our Westminster leader Ian Blackford called for the House of Commons to sit in private to discuss emergency legislation to consider Scotland’s position on Brexit.

Mr Blackford was trying to use standing order 163, a convention of the House of Commons that allows for a vote on private business.

This was denied, and Mr Blackford was asked to leave by the speaker.

I had a question lined up for the Prime Minister, to ask her if she was going to listen to Scotland’s voice – but as our leader had been removed, the question had already been answered.

I walked out of Prime Minister’s Questions alongside my SNP colleagues in protest.

The Tories have not won a democratic mandate from the people of Scotland for more than 60 years, yet they press on to claw back powers from Holyrood without consent.

Their respect for Scotland is skin deep at best.

Following the walk-out, the SNP was granted an emergency debate on the Sewel convention – the agreement that Westminster does not legislate on devolved matters without the approval of Holyrood.

This led to a three-hour debate on the powers of the Scottish Parliament, where Scottish members were given the time to air their views on the proceedings of the EU Withdrawal debate – but no meaningful allowances were made to secure Holyrood’s powers.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the convention had been “ripped up” after MSPs voted by a margin of 93 to 30 not to give Scotland’s consent.

I am extremely concerned by the way the UK government has handled this situation.

If the Sewel convention is continually undermined, it means we cannot protect the powers of the Scottish Parliament, and Westminster will instead be allowed to act autocratically regardless of Scotland’s wishes.