Scotland Office could be abolished, MPs suggest in new report

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A Commons report has criticised Whitehalls’s approach to devolution and suggested that the role of the Scottish secretary in the UK cabinet could be abolished.

The devolution settlements were set up 20 years ago in the context of EU membership, said Sir Bernard, who is chairman of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee.

Scottish Secretary David Mundell. Picture: John Devlin

Scottish Secretary David Mundell. Picture: John Devlin

A committee of MPs concluded in a report that Whitehall officials are not properly trained to understand devolution and mechanisms for the UK’s governments to discuss vital issues such as Brexit are “not fit for purpose.”

The report said devolution has “arguably qualified” Westminster’s sovereignty and changed the balance of powers across the UK.

READ MORE: Whitehall officials ‘do not understand’ Scottish devolution

It also notes: “Whitehall still operates extensively on the basis of a structure and culture which take little account of the realities of devolution in the UK. This is inimical to the principles of devolution and good governance in the UK.”

MPs on the committee said it was “highly regrettable that there was little consultation with devolved governments in advance of the publication of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, as earlier consultation could have possibly avoided much of the acrimony that was created between the UK government and the devolved governments”.

The report calls for a devolution review in the year following Brexit, covering how Whitehall is structured and how it relates to the devolved administrations.

“This review,” it says, “should also consider whether the role of the territorial offices in Whitehall and corresponding Secretaries of State are still necessary and, if they are, whether they might be reformed to promote better relations across Whitehall with the devolved administrations.”

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