Findings of a UK Government devolution review are still to be shared with the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish administrations almost a year after it launched and six months after it was due to complete.
The Dunlop review, which was set up by Theresa May last July, was tasked with investigating how the Union could be strengthened after MPs concluded relations had “broken down” between the UK and Scottish Government.
More than 11 months on from the review’s launch, devolved leaders told MPs that they were none the wiser about its recommendations or publication date.
“I’d almost forgotten it existed,” constitution secretary Mike Russell told a House of Commons committee.
I don’t think there’s been a single academic report that has found it fit for purpose; the JMC is bust.”
Mr Russell said the current forum for debate and decision making between the UK and devolved governments – the joint ministerial committee (JMC) – was “bust” and needed reform.
“The JMC has not functioned properly almost since it was established,” he said.
“I don’t think there’s been a single academic report that has found it fit for purpose; the JMC is bust.
“In these circumstances, we need something new. There is a crying need for a change in inter-governmental structures, but nothing has happened from the UK Government at all, we’ve seen nothing.”
The minister said the JMC was “wisely” dropped to handle the Covid-19 crisis.
“I think it was sensible and telling that all governments came to look for new structures to work in.”
I think we’re probably in a bit of a limbo at the present moment.”
Mr Russell, along with his colleagues from the Welsh and Northern Irish governments, told MPs that he “regretted” the UK Government decision to ditch the JMC’s replacement – the ministerial implementation group (MIG) – earlier this month.
“I think we’re probably in a bit of a limbo at the present moment.
“I was sorry the MIGs have been disbanded, but that’s also one of the problems, there should be co-ownership of these structures if they’re going to be effective.
“It appears they can be lifted and laid by the UK Government without any further consultation. I regret that.”
Asked if devolved ministers have much impact on UK Government policy at these meetings, Mr Russell said: “It depends on the meeting, it depends on the circumstances.”
He went on to say that the “more important and vital the issue, the more likely it is people will be sensible” but said in some areas engagement had been “pretty appalling”.
A UK Government spokesperson said: “The government is grateful for the work that Lord Dunlop has undertaken and is carefully considering his report.”