This week, SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson called David Cameron out to have a massive fight in the car park. And I for one am absolutely delighted.
I should start by saying I'm anti-hunt. In fact, fox hunting was the first thing I ever contacted an MP about. The Prime Minister, no less. Still at school, I aimed straight for the top and penned a nice hand-written letter to a shiny new Tony Blair, back in 1997.
Last Wednesday, there was due to be a vote in the House of Commons over whether to relax the hunting ban (in a nutshell, on whether to allow an unlimited number of hounds to 'flush out' foxes before they're shot). And on Monday evening, the SNP lobbed a Molotov cocktail into the constitutional hay barn - by saying that they were going to vote against the government's plans.
It was all pretty dramatic. Before the decision was announced, lobby journalists sniffed around the doors of the SNP's meeting room like (yup, that's right) a pack of hounds. Drinking glasses were practically pressed to walls in efforts to find out what was going on in there. And when the doors did finally open, to an agog waiting press, it all got VERY lively. Here's why:
The government is proposing to implement a system of English votes for English laws - Evel - to prevent Scottish MPs voting on purely English matters. (The proposed legislation, by the way, appears to have been hastily constructed using Pritt Stick, bits of string and macaroni shapes - but that is a post for another day.)
The vote on fox hunting is, fundamentally, just this sort of topic (Scotland already has its own laws about it). And traditionally, the SNP has taken the position that its MPs don't vote on English-only matters.
However - on Monday evening, all that changed. Because Angus Robertson announced that the 56 SNP MPs would, indeed, vote on the issue. Cue Brian May going wild, animal charities making the SNP nice pictures like this, and 'Foxes 4 Indy' style Twitter accounts popping up all over the place.
The following morning, Nicola Sturgeon explained the decision thus:
- That there had been overwhelming demand from people in England for the SNP to vote on the issue
- That the debate has thrown a spotlight on Scotland's hunting law - which they're now thinking about tightening up
- That the Westminster government has shown very little respect for the mandate Scottish MPs were given in the election - so (and I'm paraphrasing here) the SNP are now going to stick it to them good. Real good. From now on, they'll judge every vote on a case-by-case basis - English-only matters or not. Here's the detail.
Basically, the SNP feels it has been dissed for far too long, and it's Not Having It anymore. Robertson has called Cameron out to have a proper punch-up in the car park, and absolutely everyone is piling out to watch. If he was Bruce Willis, he'd be standing in bare, bloody feet, on a floor covered in broken glass, doing this.
Personally, I don't mind what pretext/genuine argument the SNP uses to justify voting against a relaxation of the ban. From my point of view, they could accuse Dave of using up all the milk, or not replacing the loo roll. I'm just delighted they're doing it.
And it definitely put the wind up someone. Because at the last minute, the government announced that the vote on fox hunting would be delayed until the autumn. Which of course, brings new problems. Because if the government manages to ram through the Evel legislation before the vote, SNP MPs might be excluded from voting anyway.
All in all, in constitutional terms, this is a corker. Now, when it comes to what the nationalists will vote on - all bets are off. Buckle up, Westminster.
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