United Kingdom Internal Market

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

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Photo of Maurice Golden Maurice Golden Conservative

Thank you, Presiding Officer.

The irony is that SNP members complain about a power grab when, as we speak, they in effect want to hand back powers to Brussels via the UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Continuity) (Scotland) Bill, which will enable SNP ministers to accept laws that are made in Brussels and would in effect enable the SNP to split the Scottish economy from that of the rest of the UK, to the detriment of Scotland.

The inconvenient truth for the SNP is that 60 per cent of Scottish exports—worth more than £50 billion to Scotland—go to the rest of the UK. That is more than our trade with the rest of the world combined. To put that in context, for every £3 of goods that Scotland exports to the EU, Scotland trades £10 to the rest of the UK, and more than half a million Scottish jobs rely on that. That point was strongly made by my colleague Adam Tomkins, who said eloquently that

“no one, whether unionist or nationalist, should imagine that it is in their interests to erect new barriers to trade between Scotland and the rest of the UK.”

Peter Chapman said that he was absolutely astounded that the SNP is willing to put Scotland’s economy and people’s livelihoods in jeopardy. I must admit that I am not. The UK internal market bill will provide certainty that products made in one part of the UK will not face additional barriers to market in another part of the UK, and that consumers in one part of the UK are not disadvantaged by limited access to goods and services. Not only is that just plain common sense; it is what we have done for centuries.

As ably demonstrated by Alex Rowley, Scottish Labour’s amendment shows a lack of understanding regarding the legislation, although Jackie Baillie’s contribution, particularly around dispute resolution, warrants further consideration.

As for the Liberal Democrats, we can agree that a smooth-running UK internal market is in the interest of everyone in the UK. However, I am a strong advocate of devolution and do not see federalism as a solution to a Scottish Government’s refusal to engage. Willie Rennie’s contribution was valuable, though.

We will not support the Greens’ amendment. As for the SNP’s motion, if the SNP cares at all about Scotland’s economic wellbeing, I urge it to engage constructively with the UK Government. It is time for the SNP to put Scotland first.