Amid the sound and fury of the Brexit ‘power grab’ row, both Holyrood and Westminster sort of have a point.
Each has fought their own corner, with the Scottish Government mounting a staunch defence of devolution – which Nicola Sturgeon even claimed could be “completely demolished” – while the UK Government stands firm on the need to ensure that post-Brexit Britain maintains its own ‘single market’.
It seems the SNP’s efforts in the Houses of Parliament to win control of all the 111 powers – that are due to return from Brussels and which are within devolved areas – will die in the Lords. This may give the party some cause to regret its decision not to create any SNP peers, forcing it to seek allies among the cross-bench peers and those of other parties.
However the debate will not end there. The Scottish Parliament has passed its own Continuity Bill, which would simply take the disputed powers, and the UK Government is now trying to challenge the bill in the Supreme Court, arguing Holyrood is acting outwith its authority. Expert opinion appears divided on who is in the right on that question.
But, for the SNP, this was always a battle that was worth fighting for political reasons, if nothing else.
Win, and the party could celebrate the fact it had successfully “stood up for Scotland” and saved devolution.
Lose, and this would be painted as yet another example of the kind of high-handed behaviour by Westminster which explains exactly why Scots should “take back control”. And, given the Brexit referendum campaign’s success, we can expect to hear more Leave rhetoric deployed in the cause of independence in future months and years.
Some in Scotland may find the whole thing rather dull and suspect warnings of the demise of devolution are overblown. So there is a risk for the SNP that their stance will appeal only to their own supporters, and do little to attract any new ones. It is quite hard to set the public’s imagination alight in a debate that involves legislation on matters such as food labelling. However, Euroscepticism took time to win over the public but eventually all that dubious talk about ‘bendy bananas’ seems to have had a significant effect.
The power grab row could become a grit of grievance that slowly works away at public opinion, even as behind the scenes civil servants get on with the serious business of ensuring effective governance continues.