Scottish Government did not walk away from common framework talks, says minister

Scottish Constitution Secretary Mike Russell has denied accusations that the Scottish Government walked away from negotiations on post-Brexit common frameworks.

UK small business minister Paul Scully said on Wednesday that the Internal Market Bill was introduced at Westminster as a direct result of the Scottish Government ending the talks, which would have created common standards throughout the UK for goods and services after the end of the transition period.

Mr Russell and others in the Scottish Government have described the controversial Bill as a “power grab”.

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme, Mr Scully said: “Part of the reason that we’re in this place in the first place is that we’re dealing with common frameworks to build things to consensus.

“But the Scottish Government pulled out of that some time ago, so we need to get them back to the table to make sure we can build that consensus because this is good for Scottish business, this is good for continuity of Scottish business as we leave the transition phase.”

Paul Scully
Paul Scully

But appearing before Holyrood’s Finance and Constitution Committee later on Wednesday morning, Mr Russell said Mr Scully’s assertion was “absolutely untrue”.

He said: “That is categorically untrue. We have been working solidly on the frameworks with the UK Government, and I said to this committee the last time that I appeared in front of it: We wish to complete that process, we wish them to be negotiated and agreed and we will operate as if they’re all in place from January 1 next year, the day after the transition.

“There’s no danger at all of difficulty with the [UK] single market.”

Mr Russell claimed the UK Government would prefer the Bill it has proposed to common frameworks “because they wish to force the devolved administrations – all of them – to accept really bad trade deals and much lower standards”.

He asked Mr Scully to withdraw remarks he said were “made out of ignorance”, adding that he believes the UK Government is attempting to “rewrite history”.

Under questioning from Tory MSP Murdo Fraser, Mr Russell said the Scottish Government had walked away from talks on the early stages of the Bill, not common frameworks.

He said: “We refused to enter into discussions on the internal market, because the internal market was going to lead to where we are now.”