The UK Government’s drive to dismantle devolution will create new burdens on every business and consumer in Scotland, an SNP minister has claimed.
Constitution Secretary Michael Russell intensified his war of words with Westminster as he told MSPs “every single power that the Scottish Parliament had can be undermined and taken away by these proposals” on Britain’s internal market.
And he dismissed claims the UK Government’s plan would help to cut red tape, arguing instead that it would “increase bureaucracy and make life more difficult for every business and consumer in Scotland”.
However, Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser accused Mr Russell of using “hysterical and misleading rhetoric on this issue”, as part of the Holyrood government’s latest exercise in “constitutional grievance-mongering”.
Scottish ministers have reacted furiously to the proposed changes, which have been tabled as part of efforts to create new rules to administer the powers that will return from Brussels after the conclusion of the Brexit transition at the end of the year.
To assist with securing post-Brexit trade deals with other countries, the UK Government wants legal protections to ensure the smooth flow of goods and services within Britain, potentially forcing Scotland and Wales to accept English standards, even if they differ from devolved regulations.
Mr Russell pointed to several devolved powers and initiatives that could be affected, such as minimum alcohol pricing, deposit return schemes, food labelling and hygiene in food manufacturing, animal welfare issues and environmental matters such as pesticides.
“This is a naked political ploy, a predetermined draconian solution in search of a non-existent problem,” he said.
“Enforcing these principles in the way proposed will increase bureaucracy and make life more difficult for every business and consumer in Scotland.”
Mr Russell has already signalled that the Scottish Government could fight the UK Government all the way to the courts over the “power grab”, and he reiterated the intention on Thursday.
“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 these proposals tooth and nail, in every possible place, with no intention of giving way,” he said.
Our proposals respect and strengthen devolution, with scores of powers returning from the EU going straight to Holyrood.”
Responding to Mr Russell’s statement, UK Government minister for Scotland Iain Stewart said: “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% 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.”