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SNP chief blasts Boris's Brexit 'power grab' – says PM plotting 'slow demise' of Holyrood

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The party’s Constitution Secretary Mike Russell claimed the UK Government was trying to unpick devolution in Scotland “under the cover of Brexit” and warned of a Westminster plot to “weaken the Scottish Parliament”. Mr Russell described the controversial Internal Market Act as a “power grab” and attacked the Government’s Levelling Up and Shared Prosperity Funds which he said would allow the UK Government to provide funding in devolved areas without approval from Nicola Sturgeon’s Holyrood administration.

Speaking in the foreword to a new report on Westminster’s approach to devolution he said: “Bit by bit, the settlement that secured 74 percent support in the 1997 devolution referendum is being unpicked under the cover of Brexit and without the consent of the Scottish people.

“This is not a big bang abolition of the Scottish Parliament.

“Westminster has instead put in train the slow demise of devolution in the hope that no-one will notice.

“The UK Government has signalled its desire is to ‘undo’ devolution and it is now repeatedly using its majority at Westminster to impose laws in devolved policy areas.

“Most alarming of all, the Internal Market Act has substantially weakened the Scottish Parliament’s powers.”

He continued: “The Act is going to have a very real impact on everyone in Scotland.

“The Scottish Parliament’s ability to ensure high levels of food standards and stop the sale of single-use plastics could be rendered obsolete – undoing devolution and undermining Scotland’s ability to directly shape its future.

“UK Government Ministers also now have the power, at a stroke of their pen, to subject Scotland’s NHS to the market access principles the Act introduces.

“That is why we will continue to resist the damaging effects of this Act in every way possible, and why we are bringing forward an independence referendum Bill – to keep Scottish powers in the hands of the Scottish people.”

Mr Russell said Mr Johnson had described devolution as “a disaster” and said Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg had spoken of restoring the UK constitution to what he calls is its ‘proper form’ while signalling his desire to “undo devolution”.

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The report, commissioned by the Scottish Government, claims the views of devolved parliaments have been overlooked, as signalled by the disregarding of legislative consent motions – a non-binding vote in each of

the devolved countries approving the UK Government’s involvement in devolved areas – on Brexit and the Internal Market Act.

The Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish legislatures all voted against approving the motion to consent to the final Brexit deal in early 2020, but the deal was still approved by Westminster.

The report said: “The UK Government has sought to justify this on the grounds that the circumstances of EU exit were ‘not normal’ and that, therefore, it could proceed with these pieces of legislation without consent.

“However, on each occasion the UK Government sought the consent of the Scottish Parliament, which indicates it was required for elements of each Bill.

“The effect is that the UK Government has shown it is willing to reshape the devolution settlement, unilaterally and in the most fundamental way, setting aside any rules of the UK constitutional system that it finds inconvenient.”

The report claimed its findings reinforced the Scottish Government’s view that independence is the “best future” for the country because successive UK administrations have not recognised the “scale and urgency of the need for change”.

It said: “These developments reinforce the Scottish Government’s belief that the best future for Scotland is to become an independent country.

“This would enable a new and better relationship with the rest of the UK on the basis of mutual respect and equal partnership.”

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The UK Government rejected Mr Russell’s accusations and the findings of the Scottish report.

A spokesman said: “Now, more than ever, people in Scotland want to see the UK Government and devolved administration working together to protect lives and livelihoods.

“The United Kingdom is the most successful political and economic union the world has ever seen.

“This pandemic and our collective response, from the furlough scheme to vaccine procurement and the backing of our military personnel, has shown that we are at our strongest when we work together towards a common goal.

“The Prime Minister remains fully committed to strengthening and levelling up all parts of the country by empowering local communities across the United Kingdom.”



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