The Scottish National party is threatening to keep up its guerrilla tactics at Westminster in protest against the government’s handling of Brexit and the powers of the Scottish parliament.
The SNP leader in the Commons, Ian Blackford, accused the Scottish secretary, David Mundell, of “shafting” the people of Scotland by denying them a voice on the Brexit process.
“He comes before us today with excuses attempting to save his own skin knowing that he has totally shafted Scotland and the people of Scotland.”
The row has been brewing for months following a vote against granting legislative consent that was supported by all but the Conservative members of the Scottish parliament.
Blackford’s threat to cause trouble on a “day by day, week by week” basis raises the prospect of the SNP, the third-biggest party in the Commons, obstructing votes, delaying debates and raising as many obstacles to the passage of legislation as its 35 MPs can muster.
On Thursday Blackford said the government had turned the relationship with Edinburgh on its head. He said that by ignoring Edinburgh’s withholding of legislative consent Mundell was ripping up the so-called Sewel convention.
It was formulated after the devolved parliament was set up in 1998 to deal with situations where Westminster legislates in matters that are the responsibility of devolved areas.
“Empty excuses are all he has having totally failed in his role as secretary of state to protect our devolution settlement and stand up for the people of Scotland,” Blackford said.
When the UK leaves the EU, many powers, including on food, farming and fishing policy, which Brussels had controlled, will return to Westminster.
The SNP wants to take control of all returned powers that are devolved. But the party is also furious because it argues not enough time has been devoted to the Scottish dimension in debates on the EU withdrawal bill.
Prime minister’s questions on Wednesday descended into pandemonium after SNP MPs walked out en masse in a preplanned protest.
But Mundell said the government had made major concessions to meet the SNP’s demands, and that convention allowed Westminster the power to legislate without consent if necessary.
“These amendments do not and cannot go as far as the Scottish government wants because the Scottish government wants a veto over arrangements that will apply to the whole of the UK.”
He said the government was taking no powers away from the Scottish parliament and had reversed the original plan to hold on to all powers repatriated from Brussels. Now just 24 of 153 powers would be retained in Westminster on a time-limited basis.
He also pointed out that devolution had not anticipated Brexit. “These are not normal times,” he said.
“This is not a situation any of us would have chosen. It is not, however, a crisis, nor is it unforeseen. Whilst the devolution settlements did not predict EU exit they did explicitly provide that in, situations of disagreement, the UK parliament may be required to legislate without the consent of the devolved legislature.”
The SNP repeated its threat of guerrilla tactics at Westminster in protest at what it describes as the “ripping up” of the convention on the relationship between Westminster and the Edinburgh parliament.
Holyrood has only once before withheld legislative consent, over the welfare reform bill in 2011. Negotiations resolved the issue.
Theresa May does not want to repeat the process of negotiating agreement over the EU legislation because, ministers say, it would lead to uncertainty for business.
On Wednesday, after leading the walkout from the Commons in the middle of prime minister’s questions, Blackford denied that it was a political stunt.
Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP leader, said that in the 24 hours since the Westminster walkout 5,000 new members had joined the party.
“This is about the harsh reality of the British government acting against the interests of the Scottish people and the Scottish government. It’s new territory, this can’t be business as usual,” she said.
The Speaker later granted a request from the SNP for a three-hour emergency debate on the Sewel convention. It will take place next Monday.