How much does it cost to change a lightbulb at Holyrood?
A few quid perhaps? Maybe ten or twenty quid at a stretch? No… in fact it turns out it costs £357 to change a lightbulb at the Scottish parliament building. Some £1.75 Million was spent on upgrading lights in the devolved assemblies’ debating chamber in 2016-7, working out at an astonishing £357 apiece.
That same year, costs ranged from £25.6 Million in staff salaries, to £15.8 Million in parliamentary expenses. All in all, the total bill for the devolved assembly came in at a whopping £95,600,000. Perhaps such largesse should not be surprising; after all the ugly carbuncle that is this Scottish parliament building famously came in at a total cost of £414,000,000 to construct; roughly ten times over budget and three years late, to boot.
Like most pro-Union Scots, despite all this, I used to be perfectly comfortable with devolution. It seemed like a half-way house that could allow us to get the best of both worlds, while winning over soft Unionists who might otherwise be tempted by Nationalism. The original theory, infamously stated by Labour Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, George Robertson, was that “devolution will kill Nationalism stone dead”.
In the aftermath of the 2014 referendum, it very quickly became clear to me that this was not the case. Despite the comprehensive victory of the pro-Union majority, the devolved administration immediately demonstrated that it had no intention of accepting the result. The SNP began to aggressively agitate for a second referendum, from almost the very moment they were defeated, and significantly, Holyrood was their chief platform to do this.
The SNP are so obsessed with this drive for another unwanted, divisive referendum that they have entirely neglected all their duties of devolved government. In so far as they have legislated, they have done so with the sole purpose of making Scotland’s laws and regulation different from those in the rest of the UK.
I realised then, that not only is Holyrood the SNP’s platform to push for another referendum, the very fact of devolved government diminishes the bonds that bind our United Kingdom together. When Scotland has its own separate legislature, laws, regulations and quasi-national leader in the form of the First Minister, then by proportion, we cease to share these things in common with the rest of our British family. Devolution – independent of who is actually in charge at Holyrood – in and of itself, diminishes the bonds that actively maintain our unity.
In its current form, Devolution goes massively beyond what was instituted on the back of the 1997 referendum. Since then we’ve had several enormous power grabs by Holyrood: for example, the devolution of railways in 2005; of conservation, fishing, wind and wave energy in 2008; of borrowing, spending and a host of taxation powers through the Scotland Act 2012; of the Crown Estate, welfare and everything from road signs to gas extraction through the Scotland Act 2016. These are all powers that the SNP have mis-managed, yet nobody voted for any of that to be devolved in the 1997 referendum.
Despite this, the pro-devolutionary consensus in Scotland’s political and media establishment is truly stifling. It was a New Labour government that introduced the Scottish parliament and it was a Conservative government that, in 2016, legislated for the biggest single transfer of powers to the Scottish parliament in its history. All three mainstream Unionist parties remain champions of devolution (indeed further devolution in the case of Labour and the Lib Dems), and have legislated thoughtlessly for it while in power.
But enough is enough.
I am one of a growing number of Scots who now support the full abolition of the Scottish parliament and the repeal of legislative devolution. One major Panelbase poll for the Sunday Times last year placed support for abolition at 22%, with a remarkable 57% of Conservative voters and even a quarter of Labour voters backing it. For context, around 5.5-6% of the vote will typically elect an MSP in any of Scotland’s list regions at a Holyrood election (presuming that party has not won any constituency seats).
Next year’s Holyrood elections are an opportunity to change the agenda; to stop talking about another separation referendum and start moving constitutional debate in the other direction by making scrapping Holyrood the primary talking point. The Nationalists won’t like that one bit!
That’s why I co-founded the Abolish The Scottish Parliament Party and will stand in the Scottish Elections in May 2021 on a platform to abolish the wasteful Scottish Government, get rid of 129 excess MSPs, finally end pointless constitutional arguments, and put the £100 million saved back into the NHS and education.
I believe that Scotland’s political needs can be adequately handled by a return to local authority control with Scotland-wide projects being better served by our current Scottish MPs, working with an empowered Scottish Office that can spend directly on Scottish infrastructure.
We’re bringing together a great team of candidates from all political backgrounds. We will be contesting the regional lists only, and not constituency seats, in order to maximise the pro-UK vote and get the SNP out.
Like all voters currently under the age of forty, I was too young to vote in the devolution referendum of 1997. In fact, I was in primary school at the time! But now, in the 2020s I hope to finally give anti-devolution Scots a voice, and shake up the cosy Holyrood establishment that has gone unchallenged for far too long.
John Mortimer is the Leader of the Abolish the Scottish Parliament Party. Follow the party on Twitter at @AbolishHolyrood or at their website: abolishholyrood.org/
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On reflection, the shambles around the delays and cost of the Scottish parliament building were a foretaste of what was to be enacted inside the building itself. John has done a great job of capturing the financial cost of Devolution but also the political cost as the legislation is abused by SNP. No country can pass legislation which leads to the wilful destruction of that country. The Scotland Act should be repealed now or at the very least reviewed and amended. Good luck with the new party.