United Kingdom Internal Market

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 18th August 2020.

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Photo of Bruce Crawford Bruce Crawford Scottish National Party

Yes, I do—and it will come.

Of course, it is the Tory Government that is content to create new barriers to free trade for Scotland, by removing us from the largest internal market in the world. It is the Tories who are intent on removing the people of Scotland, against their will, from a free market of around 450 million people, instead imposing new trade barriers with 27 countries on Scotland’s exporters—complete with tariffs and border controls. According to the Fraser of Allander institute—and I will say a bit more about it in a moment, as the Tories are obviously keen to talk about it—the exports to those 27 countries are worth more than £16 billion.

If we dig down deeper into the export numbers, we find even more revealing truths. As the Fraser of Allander institute demonstrated in February:

“Scotland actually exports more manufactured products – i.e. things that are exportable over international borders – to countries outside the UK than it does to the rest of the UK”.

It is therefore absolutely clear that it is the Tories who are creating barriers to free trade, by removing Scotland from the EU and through their ideological thirst for centralised control, as laid out in the white paper. Furthermore, their

“proposals pose a significant threat to the development of Common Frameworks and to devolution.”

Those are not my words or the words of an SNP cabinet secretary or minister; those are the words of NFU Scotland. The views of NFUS very much chime with those of the Finance and Constitution Committee, and they are worth quoting—indeed, Alex Rowley and Willie Rennie have already done so.

The NFUS said:

“Since 2017, the Common Frameworks process has intended to specifically manage policy differences between all parts of the UK based on agreement and founded on respect for devolution.”

It went on:

“However, the UK Internal Market proposals put forward limit the devolved administrations’ ability to act if any standards were lowered and give the UK Government a final say in areas of devolved policy, such as agriculture, the environment or animal health and welfare.”

There we have it—the threats are clearly laid out.

I turn to a specific threat to Scotland’s reputation for clean, green food production. I will take an example that was provided to the Finance and Constitution Committee by Professor Dougan from the University of Liverpool. With regard to the principle of mutual recognition proposed in the white paper, he said:

“any good which is lawfully sold or service which is lawfully provided in Territory X, should be allowed to be lawfully sold/provided also in Territories Y and Z, without having to comply with any further standards, checks or requirements in the host country.”

He went on to say:

“Territory X might ban the production of GMOs within its own borders—but it cannot stop the importation of GMOs which have been lawfully produced in Territory Y.”

Given that the growth and sale of genetically modified organisms are permitted in England and Wales but opposed in Scotland, we have a clear and very real threat to the clean, green status of Scotland’s multibillion pound food and drink sector, as well as a wider threat to agriculture, the environment and animal health and welfare.

For goodness’ sake, even the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee at Westminster, which is chaired by a Tory and has a Tory majority, has said that the proposals will

“effectively create new reservations in areas of devolved competence.”

At the end of the day, the central question for the Scottish Tories is: will they stand with the majority to defend devolution and protect Scotland’s interests or will history show them to be simply Boris Johnson’s little helpers in Scotland?