Forget media spin. Read Theresa May’s actual unvarnished words. In Glasgow today she notified Scotland of a specific intention for Westminster to intervene in devolved areas to “improve outcomes” in Scotland. There is no other possible logical analysis of the following long passage:
But the devolution of powers across the United Kingdom must not mean we become a looser and weaker union.
We cannot allow our United Kingdom to drift apart.
For too long the attitude in Whitehall has been to ‘devolve and forget’.
But as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, I am just as concerned that young people in Dundee get a good start in life and receive the education they need to reach their full potential as I am about young people in Doncaster and Dartford.
I care as much about the dignity and security of older people on both sides of the River Tweed or the Irish Sea.
The economic prosperity of the UK as a whole depends on young people in all parts of the UK having the skills they need to reach their full potential.
And people who have worked hard all their lives and made a contribution to society are everyone’s concern.
It goes back to the fundamental unity of the British people which underwrites our whole existence as a United Kingdom.
We are all diminished when any part of the UK is held back, and we all share in the success when we prosper.
In Government that principle is called ‘collective responsibility’.
We need to build a new ‘collective responsibility’ across the United Kingdom, which unites all layers of government, to work positively together to improve the lives of everyone in our country.
As the Government serving the whole United Kingdom, formed in a Parliament drawn from the whole United Kingdom, the UK Government exercises a responsibility on behalf of the whole UK that transcends party politics and encompasses all aspects of our national life.
While fully respecting, and indeed strengthening, the devolution settlements and the devolved administrations across the UK, we must unashamedly assert this fundamental responsibility on our part.
So in those reserved policy areas where we govern directly for the whole United Kingdom, we will explicitly look to the interests of the Union – both the parts and the whole – in our policy-making.
And in policy areas where responsibilities are devolved, we will look for ways to collaborate and work together with the devolved administrations to improve the outcomes for everyone.
The meaning could not be more clear, especially following a long litany of claims that SNP rule in Holyrood had failed in every area of devolved power. You can read the full text here.
May seems to be suffering an extraordinary degree of hubris; she sees the Tories having achieved very slightly over half of the SNP vote at the Holyrood elections as a sign of mass popularity. She is laying down that Unionism means Unionism just as purely as Brexit means Brexit. Devolution is only represented in her speech as an evil that must be guarded against.
It is perhaps unsurprising that May did not mention anywhere that Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU, and did not mention any possibility for special provision in Scotland’s future relationship with the EU. But that she did not even pay lip service to the notion of devolution as a good thing is surprising, and I am frankly astonished that she boldly asserted an intention for greater Westminster interference in current devolved areas.
This is a colossal act of hubris from a woman confident she faces no serious political resistance. That she adopts in Glasgow the false Thatcher like voice and rhetorical style that goes down so well with UKIP leaning Tories is indicative of the shallowness of her experience and the depth of her misjudgement.
Theresa May’s declaration of war on devolution today will come to be seen as a key moment in our path to Independence.