Brexit ‘power grab’ row: What could happen next?

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If the consequences of the ‘Brexit power grab’ row are as severe as had been claimed, Scotland must be many accounts be in the throes of a constitutional crisis.

Since the SNP MPs walked out of the House of Commons in protest at how the Brexit debate was conducted, the rhetoric between the two sides has only become more fierce.

David Mundell will greet Donald Trump as the US president arrives in Scotland

David Mundell will greet Donald Trump as the US president arrives in Scotland

The Scotsman revealed between the Scottish and UK Governments is increasingly improbable as Scottish Secretary David Mundell that he wouldn’t change his position on the so-called power grab, which will see powers in devolved areas repatriated from Brussels to Westminster, rather than Holyrood.

On Saturday, we broke the news that UK Government sources had stressed a tougher line against the SNP, with one senior source claiming that the Conservatives would no longer ‘tiptoe around’ the Scottish Government.

We look at what could happen next as the prospect of a ‘no deal’ outcome between the two Governments looms larger.

Is there a power grab?

In common with many political rows, there is no straight answer to this question, which serves to allow both sides to interpret circumstances in their own way.

It is certainly the case that some of the powers which are being returned to Westminster once Britain leaves the EU (pencilled in for April 1 2019) are in areas that are devolved to the Scottish Parliament, including in fishing and agriculture.

The Scottish Government say that this amounts to an effective veto over devolved administrations, something they say not only defies the spirit, but the letter, of devolution laws.

They have accused the UK Government of breaching the Sewel Convention, which decrees that Westminster should not “normally” legislate in devolved areas.

READ MORE: Lord Sewel: Brexit legislation ‘not a power grab’

That argument was dealt a blow, however, by the declaration of the man who created that convention, Lord Sewel, that the unique challenge of Brexit meant the actions of the UK Govrnment didn’t merit a power grab.

Not that the SNP will give up their fight, and the notion of a power grab will still likely remain a matter of opinion.

Possible Scottish Government next steps

Even as there is a period of relative calm between dramatic days of voting in the House of Commons, the Scottish Government is showing no sign of letting up in the row.

SNP Brexit Minister Mike Russell told MSPs that “devolution cannot continue” like it’s “business as usual” after Westminster legislated on Brexit without strict observance of the Sewel Convention.

READ MORE: Ian Blackford calls for emergency laws

While further mass-walkouts at Prime Minister’s Questions by SNP MPs may seem unlikely, there are still plenty of opportunities for ‘guerilla tactics’ that could see the party disrupt parliamentary proceedings.

In Holyrood, there could be direct action taken to ‘protect’ devolution, but with the Scottish Parliament’s withholding consent from Westminster already, any actions could be largely symbolic.

As for the perennial elephant in the room of Scottish politics, independence, there has been little movement since the SNP published the results of their ‘Growth Commission’ report.

While Nicola Sturgeon is hardly likely to call a second referendum as the House of Commons votes on amendments to the Brexit bill, that threat is ever present.

UK Government next steps

While it was undoubtedly something of a slip of the tongue when David Mundell said Scotland was a ‘part, not a partner’ of the UK, but he may have betrayed the feeling in certain quarters of the UK Government that the Scotland issue is one of many which require urgent attention.

A solution to the Irish border problem, as well as calming pro-EU backbenchers who have rebelled against the Government, are among the difficulties currently demanding the attention of Prime Minister Theresa May.

However, it is apparent that the UK Government is content to allow the battle with the SNP to play out, and, as their sources stressed to the Scotsman at the weekend, ‘stop walking on eggshells’.

Whatever actions either the UK or the Scottish Governments take, one thing is undeniable – the ‘power grab’ row is not going anywhere.