Mundell says powers will not be at risk from review of devolution

Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell
Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell
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A review of how the UK government is set to up to preserve the Union and respond to devolution will not affect the balance of powers between London and Edinburgh, Scottish Secretary David Mundell has insisted.

Giving evidence to MPs on the Scottish Affairs Committee, Mr Mundell said: “Let me be clear: the devolution settlement is not up for renegotiation.”

Challenged over the UK government’s rejection of calls for immigration powers to be devolved, with Scotland facing an acute demographic crisis, Mr Mundell said it was up to the Scottish Government to make Scotland a “more attractive” destination for inward migration.

The Scottish Secretary also defended his department’s spending on social media advertising to promote the UK government’s work in Scotland.

According to SNP MP Deidre Brock, funding for social media advertising at the Scotland Office was £13,000 in February and nearly £11,000 in March.

Ms Brock said the expenditure was far higher than that of the Welsh Office, which she claimed was around £71 for a summit in 2016.

Speaking at the Scottish Affairs Committee, Mr Mundell said it was important to demonstrate the role and work of the UK government in Scotland.

“I think it is important that we demonstrate firstly the respected powers and responsibility to Scotland, to government and what we’re doing,” he said.

He added: “I accept your legitimate scrutiny of what we’re spending and I absolutely think that it is right that we should be held to account for that.

“But we have to have a degree, I think, of context. The Scottish Government spend on comms staff was £2.6 million compared to the £700,000 of my office.”

Gillian McGregor, director of the Office of the Secretary of State for Scotland, said it was “really important to be able to reach as wide an audience as you can”.

She added: “We want to reach young people, we want to reach other groups who we may not normally meet in our day-to-day work.”

Mr Mundell said the Scotland Office was trying to “ensure that people understand the roles and responsibilities of the UK government and what we’re doing to fulfil them and, unashamedly, that people benefit from being part of the United Kingdom. I don’t make an apology for promoting the UK government and the benefits of the United Kingdom within Scotland.”