Devolution an ‘infectious desire’

Leader of the SNP in Westminster, Angus Robertson
Leader of the SNP in Westminster, Angus Robertson
Have your say

after CHANGING the face of Westminster politics at the General Election, The Scottish National Party’s leader in the Commons believes English regions will be struck by the ‘infectious desire’ to transfer more power from Whitehall.

Angus Robertson, 46, who represents Moray in North East Scotland, said devolution to Yorkshire will be part of a natural shift in English governance as people start to realise what the SNP have long espoused - that there are significant advantages ‘of being able to make decisions closer to home’.

Whether it’s the fact junior doctors have not rallied over their new contracts in Scotland, or standards of social care, he said the localisation of decision making is in everyone’s interest long-term.

He said: “I think it’s one of the biggest missing links in British politics is not just the lack of democracy at a local level but a lack of direct input from those regions at a national level.

“So we have a House of Lords that is made up of people who are elected by nobody but we don’t have representatives from Yorkshire.”

With the populations of Yorkshire and the Humber and Scotland both at 5m he thinks the region has a strong case when it comes to controlling its own affairs, but said the ‘jury’s out’ on the current devolution programme being rolled out by the Government is working.

Instead he would prefer the German federal model for England where each region has a strong identity and powerful decision making.

He said: “Only time will tell whether people are content with the level of powers that have been devolved and the settlements that have been made to regions.

“But just as human beings like to be able to make decisions for themselves, I think when people realise the advantages of being able to make decisions closer to home it’s an infectious desire.”

The former broadcast journalist joined the SNP aged 15 and was first elected in 2001, and for years was under the leadership of Alex Salmond until he took over in 2007.

After years of sitting on the side-lines the party not have the capacity to swing votes with the Goverment’s slim majority of just 12 MPs.

They already kicked Conservative plans to debate the fox hunting ban into the long grass, and helped vote down Sunday trading reforms.

His own raison d’être however remains Scottish indepedence when the people of Scotland ‘want that to happen’.

He said he has plenty on his plate however steering the third largest party through their historic political ascendancy.

“The work that is involved in transitioning the SNP from a party of six parliamentarians - 1% of MPs - to being the effective opposition in Westminster and having a serious job to do in the chamber, in committees... it’s a massive undertaking for me and all my colleagues.”

Sitting just metres away from the action of Prime Minister David Cameron and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn trading blows over the despatch box for the past six months, he said the Conservative party’s regular guffawing at Mr Corbyn is playing out very badly with the public.

He said: “I often sit opposite and think how misguided people are to be so dismissive of the issues that are being raised because you don’t think the way the question is being put it as impressive as you think it should be.

“People should be dealing with the substance rather than the style.”