Government 'unpicking' Scottish devolution 'under cover of Brexit', minister claims

8 March 2021, 15:33 | Updated: 9 March 2021, 08:03

A new report is said to reinforce the Scottish government&squot;s view that independence is the "best future" for the country
A new report is said to reinforce the Scottish government's view that independence is the "best future" for the country. Picture: PA

By Patrick Grafton-Green

The UK government hopes to "unpick" Scottish devolution "under the cover of Brexit". according to the country's Constitution Secretary.

Mike Russell raised concerns over what he sees as the weakening of the Scottish Parliament in the foreword to a new report on Westminster's approach to devolution.

The report singled out the Internal Market Act, described by Mr Russell and others as a "power grab", as well as the Levelling Up and Shared Prosperity Funds, which would allow the UK government to provide funding in devolved areas without Holyrood's approval.

READ MORE: Boris Johnson angers Scottish nationalists after labelling devolution 'a disaster'

It says its findings reinforce the Scottish government's view that independence is the "best future" for the country.

Mr Russell said: "Bit by bit, the settlement that secured 74% 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 Prime Minister himself has called devolution 'a disaster'.

Constitution Secretary Mike Russell
Constitution Secretary Mike Russell. Picture: PA

"The Leader of the House of Commons has spoken of restoring the UK constitution to what he calls is its 'proper form' and has signalled his desire to 'undo' devolution."

The report, commissioned by the Scottish Government, claims the views of devolved parliaments have been overlooked.

Legislative consent motions - non-binding votes in each of the devolved countries approving the UK government's involvement in devolved areas - have been disregarded on Brexit and the Internal Market Act, according to the report.

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 nonetheless 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," it said.

The report added: "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."