Hardline unionists who “resent” the existence of Holyrood are trying to claw back powers to Westminster, the SNP’s deputy leader has claimed. 

Keith Brown said it was not just “bolshie Jock grievance mongers” who were critical of the UK government’s approach to devolution. 

He pointed to recent comments from former Labour first minister, Henry McLeish, attacking the Foreign Office’s decision to limit the SNP-Green administration’s influence overseas. 

The former minister’s comments came on Tuesday evening, during a debate he called on Protecting Devolution and the Scottish Parliament.

While the SNP benches were rammed, most opposition party MSPs gave the debate a miss. 

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Mr Brown said this was not a one-off issue and pointed to Alister Jack’s decision to trigger Section 35 of the Scotland Act and veto the Scottish Government’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill. 

He also criticised last week’s exemption to the Deposit Return Scheme, issued by the UK Government with a string of conditions.

“Frankly, it's a disgrace that we even have to debate this, but debate we must because this chamber this institution, this parliament of ours is under attack. And sadly, there are those within these walls who are complicit in that attack, some explicitly, others by their silence or even their absence.”

The Herald:

Mr Brown said there had been a “very broad consensus” during the 1997 referendum on devolution that there was a wide range of issues “best dealt with here in Scotland's Parliament rather than down the road in Westminster.” 

He said there was no “shrinking back from that view amongst the people of Scotland.” 

“What I also see though, are hardline unionists, those who were not part of that 1999 consensus, and have resented the very existence of this place ever since, emboldened perhaps by their experience with Brexit, and fueled by reminiscences of an empire on which the sun never set and a golden age that never existed, trying to claw back powers to Westminster and to Whitehall.”

"And let's be clear, this is not just the bolshie Jock grievance mongers, as people like Jacob Rees Mogg might describe us, for example, former Labour first minister Henry McLeish, who I think would be appalled by at the absences on the Labour benches tonight, branded Tory moves to curtail Scottish ministerial engagement abroad as an attack on devolution."

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Replying, Conservative shadow external affairs minister, Donald Cameron, said the Section 35 was “intrinsic to the Scotland Act.” 

“It is part and parcel of the devolution settlement,” he said. “You can't complain that devolution is under threat when the section at issue was explicitly included by Donald Dewar and the founders of devolution in the Scotland Act itself."

The Herald:

He also dismissed Mr Brown's claim that devolution was under attack. 

“Do we still pass legislation week after week, year after year on Scotland only matters? Of course we do. 

“But let none of that get in the way of the predictable SNP hysteria about a constitutional crisis and loose talk about a full frontal attack and a scorched earth policy when it comes to devolution because this is all they have left. 

“The sound you hear is the noise of empty, empty rhetoric, the resounding gong and clanging symbol of nationalist grievance. 

“And does any of that help the people of Scotland? Does any of that help the person waiting at a pier of Mull for a ferry that doesn't arrive? Does that help the teenager waiting months on end for a mental health appointment that doesn't happen? Not one bit.”

Labour’s Sarah Boyack said the SNP would rather debate the constitution rather than focus “on delivering for the people of Scotland.” 

"We need to improve devolution and we need a better quality of government in Scotland.

"But we crucially need both the UK and Scottish governments to work together, even though they disagree with each other, for the better of Scotland, not just to grab headlines and have a fight with each other."

The Herald:

She said her party had delivered devolution, “and we appear to be the only party that is still interested in transforming the settlement to make it work.” 

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The MSP said there had been no talk during the debate about empowering local authorities and communities. 

“That's core to devolution, not leaving our councils cash strapped for over a decade without the resources to provide the basic services our constituents need.”

Green MSP Maggie Chapman said the Tory party’s  “fundamental and long-standing opposition to the principle of devolution” was not unexpected. 

“Labour, on the other hand, the self-proclaimed architects of devolution are just sitting back and watching as the UK Government ride roughshod over this parliament.”