Rumoured plans for the UK Government to withhold state aid powers after Brexit would be a “full-scale assault on devolution” and increase support for Scottish independence, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
The First Minister warned if decision-making powers over state aid were reserved to Westminster it would be a “blatant move to erode the powers of the Scottish Parliament”.
Ms Sturgeon shared a Financial Times report that suggested the UK Government wants to control state aid policies at the end of the Brexit transition period.
It would risk conflict with the Scottish and Welsh Parliaments, which want the powers to be devolved.
Ms Sturgeon tweeted: “Make no mistake, this would be a full-scale assault on devolution – a blatant move to erode the powers of the Scottish Parliament in key areas.
“If the Tories want to further boost support for independence, this is the way to do it.”
Mr Johnson’s Government is expected to bring forward legislation to the House of Commons in the autumn that may entail state aid policies – such as subsidising companies – being reserved to Westminster.
Scotland’s Constitution Secretary Mike Russell has previously said plans to enshrine a UK “internal market” after Brexit would seriously undermine devolution, describing them as a potential “power grab”.
In a letter to Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove, Mr Russell said he is concerned about proposals for an external body that would “test” whether a bill in Holyrood affected the UK’s internal market and plans for a “mutual recognition regime”, which he said could lower regulatory standards beyond what the Scottish Parliament found acceptable.
In response, Mr Gove accused him of trying to “confect” a political row.
Downing Street would not be drawn on the specifics of the state aid policy but defended efforts to protect the “internal market”.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We will protect our UK internal market from any barriers that could harm trade and destroy people’s livelihood.
“We have sought to agree a shared approach to the UK internal market with the devolved administrations.
“Protecting internal trade across the UK benefits businesses all across the country including in Scotland – 60% of Scottish trade is with the rest of the UK, worth over £50 billion to Scotland.”
The spokesman insisted “there will be more powers going to the devolved administrations as a result of leaving the EU”, adding further details will be set out in due course.