Tensions between Westminster and the devolved parliaments have been a constant feature of the Covid pandemic. Up in Edinburgh, the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has made full use of the crisis – hinting constantly at closing the English border and peppering her daily press conferences with pointed jibes at London.
Such actions are of course merely in keeping with the SNP’s penchant for power grabs and undermining the Union. In April the party’s Holyrood manifesto included a section grandly titled ‘global affairs’ boasting about their plans to engage with the ‘Scottish diaspora’ and the establishment of a ‘Scottish Council for Global Affairs.’
Foreign policy is, of course, a reserved power for Westminster. But it appears that the nationalist push to cast aspersions on the proper delineation of powers in the UK could well be working. According to a new poll for The Spectator of 1,000 Scots by Redfield and Wilton, no less than 21 per cent believe that the First Minister and Holyrood currently have the ‘most power and responsibility’ on foreign policy with respect to Scotland.
Two thirds of Scots – 67 per cent – are aware that Westminster does indeed have the constitutional prerogative on this issue though a further 12 per cent still went for ‘don’t know.’ The confusion on who currently has responsibility for which area of policy is implied in other findings too.
Two recent flash points between London and Edinburgh have been the attempted Home Office deportations in Glasgow in May and Scotland’s record number of drug deaths in July. Unsurprisingly, some 22 per cent of those surveyed believe Holyrood has more power over immigration than Westminster compared to 67 per cent who believe the opposite. On drugs, nearly a third (32 per cent) say the UK government currently has more responsibility in Scotland while 54 per cent say its their Scottish counterpart.