THE SNP has staged a dramatic walk-out in the House of Commons after Ian Blackford its Westminster leader defied the Speaker, insisting the UK Government had shown total disrespect and discourtesy to Scotland by its actions over the Brexit Bill.
The Conservatives, he later suggested, had returned to the days of Margaret Thatcher and were acting in an “anti-Scottish” way.
In developments that stunned MPs during Prime Minister’s Questions, the Nationalist leader attacked the Conservative Government, which he said was implementing, through its legislation, a power-grab against Holyrood and had not even given Scottish MPs the chance to debate it during Tuesday’s consideration of the Bill.
Using a rare parliamentary device, he called for a “private sitting” of Parliament, which would have removed the public from the chamber’s gallery.
The move appeared to take John Bercow, the Speaker, Theresa May, and others totally by surprise.
As the chamber descended into confusion, Mr Bercow hurriedly consulted the Commons lawyers and suggested a vote on Mr Blackford’s request be taken after PMQs. But the Highland MP insisted he wanted an immediate vote, declaring: “I beg to move.”
At which point as Nationalist MPs cheered, Opposition MPs jeered. The Speaker took more advice, repeating that the vote should take place at the end of PMQs. “That is the end of the matter,” declared Mr Bercow, calling the PM to respond.
But Mr Blackford continued to stand as the Speaker urged him amid the roar of the chamber to sit down, insisting: “No, you’re not moving anything.”
As the volume in the chamber rose further on all sides, Labour frontbenchers were engaged in hurried private conversations.
As the Speaker again insisted a vote could take place at the end of PMQs, SNP backbencher David Linden shouted: “Now!”
Mr Bercow responded by telling the Glasgow MP: “I say to you in the kindest possible spirit, don’t tell me what the procedures of this House are. I’m telling you there can be a vote at the end of this session and not now.”
As Mr Blackford rose again to applause from some of his SNP colleagues, the Speaker shouted: “Order. Resume your seat Mr Blackford!” He then said in light of the party leader’s refusal to resume his seat, he ordered him to leave the chamber immediately.
At first, the Highland MP did not go. As MPs continued to shout, Mr Bercow could he heard saying to colleagues: “He won’t, so we’ll have to have the vote.”
At one point, Joanna Cherry, the Nationalist MP, could be seen shouting at the Tory benches before Mr Blackford dramatically walked out followed by his SNP colleagues. Ms Cherry as she left waved to the Speaker, saying: “Goodbye.”
As the noise level began to subside, Mr Bercow said it was a pity as Nationalist MPs had questions down on the Order Paper.
Earlier, in Commons exchanges, the SNP leader had pointed out that despite the declaration that Scotland would be a partner of equals in the UK, the Tory Government had pressed ahead with a “power-grab” in direct opposition to Scotland’s Parliament and had “silenced Scotland’s voice”.
He claimed that the PM and her colleagues had broken constitutional convention and “plunged Scotland into a constitutional crisis”.
He called on her to bring forward emergency legislation so that the “will of the Scottish Parliament can be heard and, more importantly be respected”.
Mrs May stressed how the outcome of the Brexit process would increase Holyrood’s powers in 80 areas, declaring: “It is not the case that this is in any way a power-grab.” She went on: “Only the SNP could say that getting 80 more areas where they are going to take decisions was a power-grab.”
Pointing to how there was just 15 minutes on Tuesday night for debate on the Scottish clause to the EU Withdrawal Bill, the PM blamed Labour for using “procedural manoeuvres” in calling unnecessary votes.
Mr Blackford replied that the reality was powers enshrined under the 1998 Scotland Act were being “grabbed back” by Whitehall and Scottish MPs were “not given the courtesy of even debating it last night; it’s a democratic outrage. The people of Scotland will not be disrespected by this Parliament.”
Outside the chamber, the MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber said: “I’m not prepared to stand back and see Westminster engage in a power-grab against the Scottish Parliament and to do so on a basis that Scotland’s parliamentarians have not been given the opportunity to debate what this Parliament is doing. It’s an outrage.”
He went on: “We are going to make sure we will be robust in using parliamentary devices to make sure we can hold this Government to account. We are in a situation that the Westminster Government has shown utter disrespect to the Scottish Parliament and the people of Scotland by wilfully ignoring that the fact that the Scottish Parliament has refused to give a consent motion.
“They are now acting outwith the support of the Scottish people. The Conservatives have returned to where they were before in acting in a manner that is anti-Scottish. We are not having it.”
But Scottish Conservative MP Kirstene Hair decried the SNP’s actions.
“This rehearsed move just demonstrated that the SNP care more about headlines than actually achieving anything for Scotland.
“They are the masters of manufactured grievance and the people of Scotland are sick of it.
“The SNP have played games with the constitution, played games with Brexit and now are playing games with Parliament. It is a joke,” added the Angus MP.
Meanwhile in the chamber, Mr Bercow at the end of PMqs looked up and praised a baby in the public gallery, who, he said, had been “a model of impeccable behaviour” despite the “turbulence” of the proceedings.
Source : HeraldScotland