By walking out of parliament during the Brexit debates at Westminster last week Scottish National Party (SNP) MPs forced themselves to the top of news bulletins in Scotland.
And they brought renewed focus on the question of independence.
Since the Scottish parliament was created in 1999, there has been a convention that the British parliament does not normally legislate on devolved matters or change the devolution settlement without the Scottish parliament’s consent.
Brexit has exploded that understanding.
When Brexit happens, a number of powers over areas such as the NHS, fracking,
agriculture and fishing will return to Britain. Theresa May intends to keep them, at least temporarily, at Westminster rather than devolving them to Scotland.
Just 15 minutes was given to Scottish issues during last week’s debates, so Ian Blackford, the SNP’s Westminster leader, protested and was ordered to leave. His colleagues followed him.
The stunt was popular.
Impromptu “hands off our parliament” protests drew hundreds in Edinburgh and Glasgow. The SNP claimed 5,000 new members within 24 hours of its MPs’ walkout.
Other figures were also moved to shift position towards independence.
Murray Foote was editor of the Daily Record newspaper when it ran its famous “vow” front page. It had political leaders promising more powers for Scotland if people voted No in the 2014 independence referendum.
He labelled what happened last week a “democratic abomination” and declared “so independence it must be”.
Many see this as an all-out assault by the Tories on devolution.
Never before has Westminster overruled elected MSPs and legislated over powers held by Holyrood without its consent. Every party—bar the Tories—rejected the “power grab” when the implications of the EU Withdrawal Bill for devolution were debated and voted on at Holyrood.
Whether last week proves to be a turning point for the independence movement remains to be seen. But the promise of Holyrood becoming the “most powerful devolved parliament in the world”, if Scots rejected independence, lies in tatters.
Labour’s abstention from the Westminster vote after it had rejected the “power grab” at Holyrood has left many scratching their heads.
This will only cut it off from those who see independence as an escape route from Westminster austerity.
The SNP leadership is under increasing pressure to call for a second independence referendum. Thousands are set to join the latest in a series of marches for independence this Saturday in Bannockburn.
The pressure is only going to grow on Nicola Sturgeon. But it’s crucial that independence is linked to a radical anti-austerity and anti-racist programme, not the bosses’ charter that the recent SNP growth commission report represented.
March for independence—Saturday 23 June, 1pm, King’s Park, Stirling
Delayed inquiries for deaths in custody
Katie Allan died earlier this month at Polmont Prison near Falkirk.
The student, who was 20 when convicted, was jailed for 16 months in February for a drunk driving hit and run.
She was due to be released in October.
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Prison Service said, “We can confirm Katie Allan passed away.”
There is a legal obligation to hold a Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) in cases of deaths in custody, but there is no obligation to hold it within a reasonable timescale.
There has been no FAI into any of the 24 prison deaths last year.
There has been no FAI into 18 prison deaths in 2016.
There has been no FAI into six prison deaths in 2015.
And, intolerably, there has been no FAI into six prison deaths for 2014.
The total number of deaths in custody in Scotland, 2014-17, in which the cause of death is still to be declared is 54.