Scottish Government claims 'systematic attack' on devolution by Westminster

Devolution is being eroded in a ‘systematic attack’ by the UK Government, a report has claimed.

Constitution Secretary Mike Russell has claimed that devolution is being eroded.

The report published today by the Scottish Government claims that the Scottish Parliament’s views on Brexit have been ignored by the UK Government, that the UK Government and Parliament now regularly legislate in devolved policy areas and adjust the powers of the Scottish Parliament without the consent of the Scottish Parliament.

It also claimed that UK Government ministers have taken powers to spend in devolved areas.

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Constitution Secretary Michael Russell also said that the recently passed UK Internal Market Act allows the UK Government to impose standards in a large number of areas that are devolved.

The report said the Act means that the Scottish Parliament could not be able to block the sale of hormone injected beef, regulate food content to prevent obesity or ban single-use plastics to protect the environment.

Mr Russell pointed to the UK Government administered ‘Levelling Up Fund’ for infrastructure projects, which he claimed is bypassing Scottish Parliament involvement in around £400 million of expected consequential funding.

He said: "Devolution has helped to move Scotland forward, building on the fundamental principle that the Parliament and Government elected by the Scottish people should make decisions for Scotland. But since the Brexit vote there has been a systematic attack on the Scottish Parliament’s powers, fundamentally undermining devolution.

“Bit by bit, the settlement that secured 74 per cent support in the 1997 devolution referendum, is being unpicked under the cover of Brexit and without the consent of Scottish people. This is not a big bang abolition – it is instead the slow demise of devolution in the hope that no-one will notice.

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“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.

Mr Russell claimed the Internal Market Act had “substantially weakened” the Scottish Parliament’s powers.

The UK Government says the Act was created to allow people and businesses to work and trade freely across the whole of the UK after leaving the European Union.

When the Act became law, the UK Government said that Holyrood – along with other devolved governments in Wales and Northern Ireland – would have power over “more issues than they have ever had before, including over air quality, energy efficiency of buildings and elements of employment law, without removing any of their current powers”.

Mr Russell said: “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.”

A UK Government spokesperson 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, and 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.”

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