Devolution Day – 9 March 2023

It’s over 30 years since the SNP produced a party political broadcast for the 1992 general election which stated that nobody ever celebrated Devolution Day.

The fifes and drums of George Washington’s American Revolutionaries were shown and the broadcast made the point that the Fourth of July just wouldn’t be the same if all the US had achieved was devolution. It was light-hearted but made a serious point.

Those weren’t good times for the SNP, they were still the lean years. But the appeal to the independence vote saw progress made, building upon the credibility earned through the Poll Tax campaign. It would be the launchpad for future success.

Decades have passed and times have changed, but some things remain true for the independence cause. Devolution just doesn’t do it. It’s neither celebrated nor does it motivate. Yet Humza Yousaf has pledged to “repeal section 35”. As rallying cries go for the independence movement, that has as much resonance as celebrating ‘Devolution Day’.

By its very nature, it envisages the continuation of the devolution settlement, it’s no rallying cry for independence. How would its removal address the inability to hold a referendum, a position confirmed by the SNP’s foolish referral of their own proposed legislation to the Supreme Court? How would it allow for the economic powers and energy regulation to address the absurdity of an energy-rich country having so many of its people in fuel poverty?

How would you even explain it on the doorstep?

SNP canvasser: I’m from the SNP and we’re calling for a repeal of s35.

Voter: What’s that mate?

SNP canvasser: That’s to stop Westminster from blocking Scottish legislation.

Voter: Like what? To do with independence and my energy bills?

SNP canvasser: Well no, the Gender Recognition Reform Bill.

Voter: What, like rapists self-identifying as women?

SNP canvasser: Yes, but not like that.

Door slams.

It’s as much a counsel of despair as Yousaf’s call to challenge the s35 in court. That’s doomed to fail and pushing it only reminds the voter of the dangers in it. The biggest losers are the genuine trans people who’re not getting the changes they require.

But if Yousaf thinks the independence cause will rally to enshrining devolution, he’s got another thing coming.