As our schools broke up for summer, our Parliament also went into recess. I enjoy being able to spend more time in the East Kilbride office and out and about in the town. It’s always good to catch up with folk, and hear more first-hand of what’s been going on locally.
As this recess started I left Scotland, the UK, and the European Union. I didn’t have to go far though, just a short flight from Glasgow to the Isle of Man. I have visited the Isle of Man once before, and met with Isle of Man politicians at events bringing together governments and parliaments from the British Isles and Ireland. The Isle of Man is self-governing (except for Defence and Foreign Affairs where they have an agreement with the UK), and like Jersey and Guernsey is a full participant in the British Irish Council.
This time, I visited the Manx Parliament, the Tynwald, in my role as Deputy Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament. I joined them for Tynwald Day, during which Acts approved over the past year get a final seal of approval in a public ceremony. Tynwald’s origins date back over 1000 years, making it the world’s oldest, continuous Parliament. This background is taken seriously on an island whose control has passed among Norwegian, Scottish, and English interests. Its status as a self-governing crown dependency dates from 1765, at which time it took full control of tax revenues.
The pride in Manx Home Rule features large in the national anthem, which contains the lines,
“O Island so strong and so fair; Built firm as Barrule (a Manx hill), Thy Throne of Home Rule, Makes us free as thy sweet mountain air.”
This was sung with such great gusto so many times on Tynwald Day, I wondered if Manx people believe they must constantly remind Westminster and the world of their self-governing status!
Brexit, understandably, was the big topic during my visit. In 1972, the Isle of Man decided not to join the European Union and a protocol to the UK’s Act of Accession created a relationship between the island and the EU. Since then, its international profile has increased. Politicians, diplomats and dignitaries from as far afield as the USA and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region of Pakistan attended Tynwald Day.
With Brexit looming, the Scottish Government has been lobbying hard for participation that makes sure Scotland’s distinct interests are taken into account. This co-operation sadly has not been forthcoming from the Tories. The UK Government has said it will “work closely with the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, to deliver an approach that works for the whole of the United Kingdom”. This places Scotland, and indeed Wales and Northern Ireland, outside the Brexit process, with no engagement on negotiations. It is clear our interests will be overridden for wider UK interests.
By contrast, the commitment to the Isle of Man and other crown dependencies is to “continue to involve them fully in our work, respect their interests and engage with them as we enter negotiations”. A much more positive statement, meaning that with Brexit looming, Manx representatives are ensuring their voices are heard.
The Isle of Man is certainly punching above its weight – good on them. With a population not much larger than that of East Kilbride they are getting on with protecting their country and their residents’ interests.
As I said earlier, I’m around locally for most of the summer, so get in touch if you want to meet for a chat about anything in particular – or generally! And, of course, let me know if there’s anything going on where I can perhaps help. Have a good summer.