United Kingdom Internal Market Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:14 pm on 14th September 2020.

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Photo of Margaret Ferrier Margaret Ferrier Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Manufacturing) 8:14 pm, 14th September 2020

For over 20 years now, the people of Scotland have had a Parliament to call their own. Since the Scottish Parliament was reconvened in 1999, it has become an established part of Scotland’s political life, delivering on the priorities of the people of Scotland. More importantly, it has demonstrated what a modern Parliament, close to the people it serves, can look like, in contrast to the remote and often stuffy atmosphere in this place.

With the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill, the mask has well and truly slipped. The Tories have revealed their anti-devolution instincts. This Bill is nothing less than a brazen attack on established norms and institutions, setting dangerous precedents for the rule of law and Scotland’s Parliament. A Government Minister admitting that this Bill has been drafted with the intention of breaking international law is a clear sign of just how far the Tory party has been captured by this Dominic Cummings Government.

Since breaching solemn agreements is now a cornerstone of Tory party policy, I will remind Government Members of the agreement they entered into with voters in 2014. They said that the people of Scotland would get the “best of both worlds”—that the Scottish Parliament would be strengthened within the Union. The promises of 2014 could not be further from the reality of what this Bill will do to undermine the devolution settlement. It sticks in the mind when someone breaks an agreement, engendering feelings of anger and betrayal. It is perhaps no surprise that there is a genuine shift towards majority support now for independence for Scotland, as we are seeing the multitude of broken promises made by the Better Together parties mount up throughout the Brexit process.

This Bill is the worst of all worlds. It kicks off a race to the bottom between the four UK nations on food and environmental standards. It re-reserves subsidies in areas previously covered by EU state aid, even if those subsidies relate to devolved areas such as agriculture, infrastructure and culture. To top off this shameless power grab, the Bill will, if it completes its passage unaltered through this place, become a protected enactment under the Scotland Act 1998. As a result, the Scottish Parliament will not be allowed to legislate in a way that is incompatible with the rules laid down in the Bill, even if the proposed legislation falls within the devolved powers of the Scottish Parliament. That is a clear breach of the principle of the Scotland Act 1998 that power devolved is power retained. That is why I and my colleagues on the SNP Benches this evening will be defending devolution by voting against the Bill tonight.