United Kingdom Internal Market Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:43 pm on 14th September 2020.

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Photo of Alyn Smith Alyn Smith Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) 7:43 pm, 14th September 2020

I am appalled by this Bill, and I have been trying to think why. The conclusion that I have reached is that we have two genuinely opposing world views conflicting tonight. From the perspective of the SNP, on behalf of Scotland’s interests, we have a fundamentally different view from the Members on the Government Benches—not illegitimate but different. We are two nations going in two different directions with different ambitions, and this Bill cuts across deep visceral principles of my party. We believe in the rule of law. We are a constitutional party. We believe in a multilateral, rules-based order. We have a clear vision of how we want Scotland to fit into that organised, binding international solidarity. We believe that agreements should be honoured. I would not have thought that that was a controversial statement, but it is in the face of this Bill, and it shames this House that we are even considering it.

We believe that the people best placed to make decisions for Scotland are the people who live in Scotland. In 1997, by 74%, the people of Scotland endorsed that principle, and endorsed the model of devolution that said that, unless specifically reserved to this place, decisions should be made in Scotland by our democratic authority. It is that principle that this Bill undermines.

Members should be in no doubt: the operation of this Bill is a wholesale, calculated, deliberate reversal of the devolution principle. There is no amount of bluster that will distract from that—not that we have heard much of it; they have all gone quiet. It is there in the Bill for all to see. In clause 46, there is an explicit assumption of budgets in Scotland, without Scotland’s consent. In clause 48, a power of subsidy is explicitly assumed, again without Scotland’s consent. In part 1, on the mutual recognition rules, it is clear that the operation of the UK internal market will undermine out of existence the competence and capacity of the Scottish authorities to make different decisions.

The most egregious part for me is part 4, on the role of the Competition and Markets Authority. For people who talked about unelected bureaucrats, here are unelected bureaucrats on steroids: people who will sit above each and every public organisation and authority in Scotland and gainsay every budget and every decision going forward—a politically appointed death panel that will sit above every democratic decision of every organisation in Scotland. We reject it. It is not in Scotland’s name.

This is a bad Bill. It undermines devolution. It actually strengthens the case for independence, if Conservative Members really want to have some pause. This House should reject this appalling piece of legislation.