United Kingdom Internal Market

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

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Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party

That intervention proves two points. One is the relish with which it was said; the other is that, if a f ormer President of the European Council can say to my face that we would be able to join the EU, I will take his word for it, not the word of the

Doric Donald Trump.

We will move on. I should have welcomed Dean Lockhart to his new role. It is always good to see who will be up against oneself over the next few months. I have to say that I was disappointed, though. Slavish loyalty is not what spokespeople should have, nor should they argue that black is white and white is black, which is clearly what was being done. However, at the end of this speech I will make a positive suggestion to Mr Lockhart for a way in which he can redeem himself following the rather bad start that he has made today.

That bad start was not simply because of his contribution but because the arguments are against him. If we go through all the submissions from organisations—and there are more than I am holding up—we find that the overwhelming weight of the argument from Scottish organisations is against the UK Government’s proposals. The submissions are not just from Scottish organisations. There is an astonishing letter from the PACA Committee at Westminster that contradicts virtually everything that Dean Lockhart said. The SCDI expresses itself

“not convinced that the legislative approach ... is the right priority”.

The Royal Society of Edinburgh is not convinced that legislation is required. NFU Scotland says that it

“is clear that Common Frameworks would provide the most effective alternative to manage policy divergence, whilst respecting devolution.”

Even the House of Lords Constitution Committee—which is not full of mad nats by any manner of means—is “not convinced” that legislation is required.

When we look at the detail of the submissions, the General Teaching Council for Scotland—which is not a terribly radical body—when looking at the issue of teaching qualifications says that the proposals undermine a historical and continuing right in Scottish education. More interesting still, the submission of the Clyde Fishermen’s Association points out that the proposals from the UK Government will make the internal market worse, not better.

As for the “history”, it is a complete misrepresentation of the historical background, particularly of the Act of Union. The white paper stands revealed today for what it actually is—a cobbled-together power grab that is motivated by fear that Scotland will stand in the way of the bad trade deals that are being done. It is an amateur attempt at legislation, unduly influenced by a former Tory MP. It is an expression of the deep antipathy—indeed, the contempt—in which devolution is held by Boris Johnson and his Government. It is an astonishing admission of the failure of the UK Government to recognise the reality of what the EU single market is and its value. It is trying to rewrite that in a form of rules that would not pass muster at the first attempt in Europe.

However, it could also be an opportunity for Mr Lockhart. In what will happen, I think, this afternoon—a vote against the white paper—he could see the clear view of many stakeholders. He could also listen to the wise caution of one of the Conservative members. I thought that Adam Tomkins’s contribution was the best that I have heard him make. It is ironic that his best contribution on the constitution comes when he is no longer the Tory constitution spokesperson, but that’s life. What he said on the legal underpinning of frameworks was very significant. The principles of proportionality and subsidiarity, which were pointed out in the Scottish Parliament in a quote from David Edward that I used two weeks ago, are fundamental to the discussion that we are having. Mutual recognition and non-discrimination cannot operate without those principles being in place.

How would that be taken forward? I disagree with Mr Tomkins—as I would—on the issue of compulsion. I do not think that there is a place here for compulsion, although there is a case for agreement. As I indicated to the committee last week, I have never said that we should not work with and use the frameworks as the foundation for the future. Indeed, I have always said that that is what we should do. That is why my officials have worked so hard to establish the frameworks. I hope that Mr Lockhart will correct the record where he said that we did not take part in the frameworks discussions, because we did take part in them.