Alister Jack has faced the wrath of some of the Scottish Electorate after the overturning of the Gender Reform Bill. But it’s not the first time. A look into the misrepresentation of Scottish opinions in Westminster by the Scottish Secretary of State – who’s not helping himself.
‘A Constitutional First’, reported Sky News on the evening of January 16th, as the news came in that the British government had blocked the Scottish Gender Reform Bill (GRB) from passing. Despite the powers for the Scottish government to pass bills such as the GRB being devolved, it’s apparent that Westminster may always have the final word.
It seems that Alister Jack, who has been Secretary of State for Scotland since 2019, has a lot to answer for now. Having previously hinted that the UK government should look into using Section 35 of the Scotland Act 1998 to block the Gender Reform Bill from passing, Jack is under tough scrutiny after Monday’s decision, which wasn’t welcomed by a large amount of the Scottish electorate.
Mr Jack’s decision was not the first time he’s come under scrutiny for making statements on behalf of Scotland. In his time as Secretary of State, he has made multiple comments regarding Scottish opinions on Brexit, claiming that Scots have ‘no desire to be part of the European Union,’ despite the statistics showing the opposite. In the 2016 Brexit referendum, less than 40% of Scots voted to leave the European Union, and a 2022 survey by The Times suggested that 72% of Scottish people would vote to rejoin the EU if another referendum was held.
Questions are raised time and time again about Scottish representation in Westminster, and in light of not only the implementation of Section 35, but also the misinformation that is being spread concerning Scottish opinions on Brexit, Mr Jack’s position is being questioned by many. It doesn’t seem that his opinions, statements or decisions are appropriately or accurately representing the views of Scottish people, and frustration is growing. The power that Westminster has over Scottish rule is, as ever, a cause of political polarisation in Scotland, and Westminster, namely Mr Jack, aren’t helping themselves to regain close friendship with their neighbours to the north.
But what is the way forward? Mr Jack, who has been an MP since 2017 and secretary of state since 2019, isn’t going anywhere soon, with another 2 years until the next general election, and his policy popularity amongst Tory, and apparently Labour, MPs in Westminster. But for some, it seems, Scottish voices are neither being heard nor represented in the House of Commons, and now, perhaps more than ever, Scottish representation seems out of touch.
It is important to remember that the SNP hold the majority of Scottish seats in Westminster, and in Holyrood, but with a conservative government in charge, it doesn’t seem that an SNP majority makes a difference in putting forward Scottish views to those in power down south. Alister Jack was appointed secretary of state at the start of Boris Johnson’s term as Prime Minister, and his position in cabinet remained unchanged throughout the rest of Johnson’s term, and indeed that of his two successors. This begs the question of whether Mr Jack’s term has exceeded its sell by date, was he ever truly representative of Scottish opinion? And more to the point, is he now?
Jack has, and will continue to face scrutiny from Scottish trans activists, all supporters of the Gender Reform Bill, independence supporters, and those who are still pro-EU. His proposal to overturn the GRB last month may have been welcomed by a majority of MPs on both sides of the house, but one cannot escape the feeling that many of his words are not those of the people in Scotland, and he isn’t helping his own popularity. Is it surprising that Scots are calling for power over their own laws, when Westminster can prevent the SNP from passing laws that are technically in the devolved remit of Holyrood?