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By Nicola Sturgeon, 12/06/18

Today Westminster MPs will vote either to defend the Scottish Parliament or to fundamentally undermine it.

It’s a crucial day in the history of devolution.

Because of the Scottish Parliament we’ve been able to protect the NHS from the creeping privatisation we see south of the border. We’ve re-instated free university education and we’re helping with the cost of living – through measures such as getting rid of prescription charges.

But the powers of the Parliament that people voted for so overwhelmingly back in 1997 are under threat.

The Westminster Government is using Brexit as cover to launch a devolution power grab.

They want to force through their EU Withdrawal Bill even though every party at Holyrood, bar the Tories, has refused to give their consent to the bill as it stands.

The issue here is not whether people agree or disagree with Brexit, or whether you’re for or against independence. It’s about protecting devolution.

Under their plans, the Tories want to freeze some of the Parliament’s powers for up to seven years whether or not MSPs agree.

This will directly affect devolved policy areas like farming, fishing and the environment which are currently exercised at EU level.

They’ve never given a decent reason for wanting to do this.

If it’s because they think there should be a common UK approach to these matters after Brexit, we’ve always said we can reach an agreement – when that is in Scotland’s interests and with the consent of the Parliament.

There’s a big point of principle at stake. Ever since the Scottish Parliament was set up Westminster has never passed a law on devolved matters without the consent of Holyrood.

But today that’s just what the Tories are going to try to do. This is no longer a dispute between the Scottish and UK Governments. It’s about whether the decisions of Holyrood on devolved matters can be over-ridden by Westminster.

We all know the Tories fought tooth and nail against devolution in the first place. They haven’t won an election in Scotland for more than 50 years but now act as if they can do anything they want to Scotland and get away with it.

Even at this late hour I’m calling on them to pull back. Amendments have been tabled to the bill which would protect devolution and enable an agreement to be reached.

This article originally appeared in the Daily Record.

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