Scottish Secretary told to ‘be honest’ about UK Government ‘power grab’

Alister Jack has been told to “be honest” with the Scottish people and “confess” that UK ministers are attempting a power grab from Holyrood.

At Scottish Questions in the Commons, SNP MP Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) suggested that the Government’s UK Internal Market Bill could be used to override the authority of the Scottish Parliament.

The accusations were rejected by the Scottish Secretary who insisted that more powers would be delivered to Edinburgh which would help strengthen the Scottish economy.

Mr Wishart said: “Can I just say ever so gently and candidly to (Mr Jack), he’s not presiding over the strengthening of the union, he’s presiding over its demise. Support for independence is now at an all-time high at 55%.

“And can I just say to him, after today it’s just going to get a lot, lot worse for (him). If there was ever any doubt that this Government were determined to override the authority of the Scottish Parliament it is Clause 46 of this disgraceful Bill today.

“Why doesn’t he man up? Why doesn’t he confess, be honest with the Scottish people and tell them that this is an unadulterated power grab?”

Mr Jack responded: “For a very simple reason, that it isn’t and still the SNP can’t tell us one power that is being grabbed, not one single power.

“Quite the contrary, more powers are being delivered to the Scottish Parliament, strengthening devolution, something that they (the SNP) don’t like and they don’t like this UK legislation because it strengthens the United Kingdom economy and that doesn’t fit into their plans either.”

Conservative former minister Douglas Ross accused the SNP of having its priorities “completely wrong” in bringing forward legislation at Holyrood for a second Scottish independence referendum.

The Scottish Tory leader told the Commons: “Further talk of constitutional wrangling is deeply unhelpful at a time when we continue to fight the coronavirus pandemic in Scotland and across much of the world.

“Does (Alister Jack) therefore agree with me that the SNP have got their priorities completely wrong by finding time to bring forward another referendum Bill as we’ve seen spikes in coronavirus in Scotland and across the UK?”

Mr Jack responded: “It is important we come together to fight this virus and not go back into division and constitutional wrangling (which) basically creates uncertainty, it’s bad for the Scottish economy, bad for Scottish jobs.”

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford speaking during Prime Minister’s Questions
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford speaking during Prime Minister’s Questions

At Prime Minister’s Questions, SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford branded the UK Internal Market Bill proposals “nothing short of an attack on Scotland’s Parliament and an affront to the people of Scotland”.

He said: “This legislation breaks international law, but it also breaks domestic law. The Prime Minister and his friends … are creating a rogue state, one where the rule of law does not apply. Why does the PM think that he and his friends are above the law?”

Boris Johnson responded: “This UK Internal Market Bill is about protecting jobs, protecting growth, ensuring the fluidity and safety of our UK internal market and prosperity throughout the UK and it should be welcomed, I believe, in Scotland, in Northern Ireland, in Wales and throughout the whole country.”