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Scottish Constitution Secretary Mike Russell made the statement to Holyrood today pledging he would fight “tooth and nail” against Westminster plans it has branded a “blatant power grab”. Business Secretary Alok Sharma published the White Paper earlier this month which will see measures which were previously managed by the EU return to the UK at the end of the year when the Brexit transition period expires.
The 160 policy areas including animal welfare, public procurement rules and environmental regulations will now go to one or more of the devolved administrations.
UK ministers have said the return of powers to the UK from Brussels will see the Northern Ireland administration receive responsibility in 157 of the 160 areas, Scotland in 111 and Wales in 70.
But Nicola Sturgeon’s administration says the terms will pose the “biggest threat to devolution” since Holyrood was established.
But Speaking in Holyrood, Mr Russell said: “Every single power that the Scottish Parliament has can be undermined and taken away by these proposals. Every single one.”
Powers over food labelling, food manufacturing and hygiene, animal welfare, recycling and environmental matter could all be affected, he said.
Mr Russell argued the impact of the proposals in the UK Government’s Internal Market Bill will mean Westminster and not Holyrood will determine the standards of goods and services produced in Scotland.
He said: “What the UK Government wants is not smooth trade but to take back control – and not just from the EU but from the people of Scotland and Wales and Northern Ireland.
“And it certainly does not want anything to stand in its way as it wilfully dismantles the high-quality system of regulation and protection we inherit from our years in the EU.”
He claimed there is “no commitment” in the proposals for the UK Government to seek the consent of Holyrood for the changes.
But Mr Russell said the legislation requires the express consent of MSPs, adding: “The Scottish Government will be recommending in the strongest possible terms that this Parliament does not give any such consent.”
He added: “The Scottish Government is committed to co-operation but it will not be bullied.
“There are alternatives to these ill-conceived proposals, including taking the voluntary common frameworks programme to its anticipated conclusion.”
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He continued: “It is not too late for the UK to turn back from this route.
“But I can assure Scotland that if it does not then this Government will fight the proposals tooth and nail, in every possible place, and with no intention of giving way.”
He stressed that they must immediately “defend Scotland against this blatant power grab from Westminster” branding it a “naked Tory political ploy.”
However Fife MSP Murdo Fraser, Scottish Conservative constitution spokesman accused Mr Russell of “hysterical and misleading rhetoric”.
He said: “The UK internal market is vital for Scottish business and the economy, supporting over half a million jobs.
“Scottish producers need to be able to sell to our largest market place – the rest of the UK – without restriction or barriers or trade.
“Sadly this Government doesn’t seem to understand that simple point. They would rather engage in constitutional grievance-mongering than consider what is best for jobs.”
Alec Rowley, Scottish Labour MSP and Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government added that there were many aspects of the white paper that “are not right.”
He added in Holyrood: “It is looking like it’s take it or leave it and that would not be acceptable and it would be a failure to stand up for the rights of this Parliament and the people of Scotland to simply take it on the instruction of Boris Johnson. The best way to protect the internal market is by the collaboration and cooperation of all nations.”
MSP Patrick Harvie, Scottish Greens co-leader, said: “I’m not surprised the Scottish and Welsh governments have echoed our concerns, this white paper is a serious threat to the powers of the devolved nations to make decisions.”
In response to the concerns, UK Government Minister for Scotland Iain Stewart MP, said to Express.co.uk this evening: “The UK Government is taking action to protect jobs, businesses and consumers in every part of the country.
“The UK internal market is vital for Scottish businesses and Scottish jobs – 60 per cent of Scottish trade is with the rest of the UK, worth more than £50 billion to Scotland. We must protect that.
“The UK Government has been clear it will not sign a trade deal that will compromise our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food safety standards. Our proposals respect and strengthen devolution, with scores of powers returning from the EU, going straight to Holyrood.”
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