Agriculture Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:14 pm on 10th October 2018.

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Photo of Deidre Brock Deidre Brock Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Devolved Government Relations), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Environment and Rural Affairs), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales) 2:14 pm, 10th October 2018

I am afraid that, unlike Welsh Labour Government Ministers, our Ministers are prepared to stand up for Scotland rather more forcefully. Ministers in the Scottish and Welsh Governments should be in full control of environmental, food and rural affairs policies, including agriculture. Let England be England; let Scotland be Scotland; and let Wales be Wales. There are fully functioning Administrations ready to take up the reins.

The Bill should be taken away and thought through again, so that there is something resembling sensible proposed legislation to be considered. We have a Bill that came prematurely: a lack of focus on the actual purpose of agriculture, a senseless and damaging power grab, the absence of any indication of a financial underpinning of Scottish agriculture and the protections that Scottish produce currently enjoys being stripped away. The Secretary of State is not a stupid man and he will know that the Bill is not fit for purpose. He has a leadership campaign to consider, no doubt, but legislation made here affects people who are trying to work, earn a living, get ahead and plan for the future. It should be done with care and a great deal of thought.

Finally, once upon a time, there was a Prime Minister called David Cameron, who started his term of office by visiting Edinburgh and then Cardiff to promote a respect agenda. He said that he wanted to make sure the UK was a partnership, not a dictatorship, and that he was determined to make devolution work. His Government, which contained many of the members of the current Government, promised to uphold the devolved powers to make sure that Scotland’s Parliament was properly respected. That agenda has vanished in the rush of blood that characterises the current Government’s planning for Brexit. Instead of respect for Scotland’s democracy and instead of upholding devolution, this Government are guilty of a centralisation of power the likes of which has not been seen in Europe for a lifetime. The political equivalent of an asset-stripping raid on the powers and responsibilities of Scotland’s Parliament and Scotland’s Government is breathtaking in its scope. Perhaps more breathtaking, however, is the truly outrageous determination of Ministers to pretend that there is nothing to see here, that nothing is being removed and that everything is being done for our own good.

The truth is that this is an assault on Scotland’s democracy that bears parallels to a previous Tory Government’s assault on Scotland’s industrial base. The ramifications of that assault are still being felt in Scotland and the ramifications of this one, if it is allowed to proceed, will hold Scotland back for decades to come. No decent Scottish MP could stand by and allow that to happen, no matter what party rosette they wear. No Scottish MP should be supporting a Bill that is part of that command-era-style centralisation. Every Scottish MP who wants to protect Scotland’s democracy, Scotland’s Parliament and the right of the Scottish people to choose their own Government will not be voting for the Bill today.