Jacob Rees-Mogg claimed on Thursday that devolution would be a “triumphant success” if the Conservative party had a majority in Holyrood – and slammed what he called the “failure of the SNP” to deliver for Scotland.
The leader of the House of Commons made the remark to SNP MP Tommy Sheppard during a session of business questions.
Sheppard had asked Rees-Mogg whether he agreed with prime minister Boris Johnson’s reported claim that devolution had been “a disaster”.
Sheppard referred to a Commons speech given by Rees-Mogg in November, in which he had argued that “Blairite constitutional tinkering has weakened our parliament and has helped to divide the United Kingdom”.
“If the UK government is about to reverse a policy of more than two decades,” said Shepherd, “surely this parliament ought to debate the matter? The current government has no UK mandate for this change and it represents a total and absolute disrespect for Scottish public opinion.”
Sheppard added: “It seems that in the coming Scottish general election, two alternative paths will be offered to the electorate – either the government’s assault on devolution ends up with direct rule from Westminster, or the Scottish people defend their right to decide matters for themselves by demanding the choice of becoming an independent country.”
The last 15 opinion polls on the question, stretching as far back as June, have shown majority support for Scottish independence, Sheppard pointed out.
In response, Rees-Mogg said that “the failure of the SNP is not something I would have thought [Sheppard] would wish to boast about.
“The SNP in government has failed on Scottish education, it has failed on Scottish health, it has failed on Scottish law and order.
“It is a shameful record in Scotland of the SNP. They have let the people of Scotland down.”
Rees-Mogg said that Sheppard “loathes genuine elections because in 2014, he lost, L-O-S-T, lost.
“He had an election and it was going to be for a generation and the generation has hardly lasted six years before he quotes opinion polls.
“Opinion polls aren’t proper elections where people go out and put their cross and put it in a ballot box.
“They are a taster of opinion at a passing moment of fancy, whereas a general election is what was had in 2014 and that is the result supported by the people of the United Kingdom.”
Echoing similar comments made by Conservative MP Damian Green on BBC Newsnight last month, Rees-Mogg added that: “It is the SNP that has been the failure and it is not devolution that has been the failure.
“Devolution could work perfectly well if only the Conservatives were in charge in Scotland, which would make a triumphant success of it.”