Wednesday, 17 June 2009

A very Calman influence

I've been reading Final Report of the Calman Commission on Scottish Devolution. Well okay, the Executive Summary - I don't have the time to read 269 pages today.

It's an interesting read for those interested in Scotland's constitutional future - whatever that may be. Plenty has been written elsewhere about the content of the report, I just wanted to focus briefly on one aspect of it.

RECOMMENDATION 6.5: Section 31(1) of the Scotland Act should be amended to require any person introducing a Bill in the Parliament to make a statement that it is (in that person’s opinion) within the Parliament’s legislative competence.

So says the Calman Final Report. I guess that is their way of suggesting that a referendum on independence couldn't/ shouldn't be considered by the Scottish Parliament. And I guess that debate could go on for awhile - particularly given it is a legal decision.

I do find it funny to note that the person introducing a bill (which, in the case of an independence referendum bill would presumably be Mike Russell) merely has to say that they reckon it is within the Parliament's competence to debate it. They don't have to get any kind of legal opinion or anything.

I can't see Mike Russell having a problem saying "I think the Scottish Parliament has the competence to debate this referendum bill" - can you?


Indy 17 June 2009 at 17:32  

I don't understand that.

At present as I understand it both the Scottish Government and the Presiding Officer have to be satisfied that a bill comes within the parliament's competence.

Effectively that means that the parliament's legal advisors and the civil servants have to agree that it is within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament. The Queen then has to give her consent after the bill is passed so presumably another set of officials will look at it as well.

I know the argument is made by some particularly enthusiastic unionists that because the SNP are in power the civil service has suddenly become a hotbed of nationalism and would agree to anything Alex Salmond says but that's just nonsense. The civil service is not even devolved. Officials do things by the book, that's why they are officials.

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