Scottish Parliament expected to vote against UK Internal Market Bill

Scotland’s Constitution Secretary is urging MSPs to “stand up and defend devolution” by rejecting controversial UK legislation.

Mike Russell called on MSPs at Holyrood to vote against the UK Government’s Internal Market Bill amid repeated claims from Scottish Government ministers that it represents a Westminster “power grab”.

Mr Russell’s claim has been rejected by Scottish Secretary Alister Jack, who insisted measures in the legislation “respect and strengthen devolution”, adding that at the end of this year “vast powers” returning from Brussels “will go straight to Holyrood”.

Alister Jack has defended the proposals (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Despite this, MSPs seem set to vote against granting legislative consent – although this will not stop the UK Government from pressing ahead with the legislation.

The Bill, which has already been passed by the House of Commons, was introduced with the aim of ensuring trade between the four nations of the UK can continue to operate smoothly when the Brexit transition period finishes at the end of this year.

Mr Russell said it represented an “unprecedented threat” to the Scottish Parliament’s powers.

He said: “I am calling on MSPs from across the chamber to stand up and defend devolution.

“Quite simply the Internal Market Bill is an unprecedented threat to the Scottish Parliament’s powers. If lower food and environmental standards are allowed elsewhere in the UK, it will force Scotland to accept these standards regardless of any laws passed at Holyrood.

“The Bill will also mean the UK Government taking control of key devolved spending powers and the devolved policy area of state aid.”

Mr Russell continued: “The Scottish Government cannot recommend consent to a Bill that undermines devolution so fundamentally and breaks international law, and we urge parliamentarians to refuse consent.”

On Tuesday, Holyrood’s Finance and Constitution Committee recommended that MSPs do “not agree consent to the UK Internal Market Bill” – with committee convener Bruce Crawford saying it “undermines the whole basis of devolution”.

However, Mr Jack urged the Scottish Parliament to support the legislation.

The Scottish Secretary said: “The UK Government is rightly taking action to protect jobs, businesses and consumers, making sure trade continues seamlessly between different parts of the UK once the transition period ends.

“The UK internal market is Scotland’s biggest market, with 60% of Scottish exports going to England, Wales and Northern Ireland – we must protect this so all corners of the country can seize the opportunities of leaving the EU.

“Our proposals respect and strengthen devolution as at the end of the year vast powers returning from Brussels will go straight to Holyrood.

“I urge the Scottish Parliament to back this vital piece of legislation.”

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