United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020

– in the Scottish Parliament on 17th March 2021.

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Photo of Fulton MacGregor Fulton MacGregor Scottish National Party

5. I also wish the cabinet secretary well and look forward to continuing to work with him as he helps us, as I am sure he will, to deliver independence.

To ask the Scottish Government to what extent it expects the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020 to impact on the powers of the Scottish Parliament. (S5O-05126)

Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party

Last week, we published a paper, “After Brexit: The UK Internal Market Act and Devolution”, which sets out how the act will impact fundamentally on the power of the Scottish Parliament. It will constrain our ability to take decisions that reflect the needs of Scotland’s businesses and people.

The Scottish Parliament’s ability to ensure high food standards and to prevent, for example, sale of single-use plastics, could be rendered obsolete, which would undermine Scotland’s ability to shape its future. The UK Government also announced plans to use the 2020 act’s spending powers to deliver the levelling up fund, which is bypassing any Scottish Parliament involvement in about £400 million of expected consequential funding.

Since the Brexit vote, there has been a systematic attack on the Scottish Parliament’s powers and on devolution. That is why we will continue to resist the damaging effects of the UK Internal Market Act 2020 in every way possible.

Photo of Fulton MacGregor Fulton MacGregor Scottish National Party

Does the cabinet secretary share my concern that the UK Government and UK Parliament are now regularly legislating in devolved policy areas and adjusting the powers of the Scottish Parliament without its consent?

Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party

Indeed, I do. There was a further example of that yesterday afternoon, when there was a series of Trojan horse amendments that were, I believe, called “probing” amendments, but which were designed to do what Fulton MacGregor described. I pay strong tribute to my friend and colleague John Swinney, who saw them off with aplomb.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

There is a supplementary question from Dean Lockhart.

Photo of Dean Lockhart Dean Lockhart Conservative

I also add my best wishes to the cabinet secretary for the next stage in his career, and I acknowledge his contributions to the Scottish Parliament and to public affairs in Scotland. I have shadowed Mike Russell for only six months, but it has been an eventful and interesting time.

I turn to my question about the UK internal market. As the cabinet secretary is aware, the UK internal market accounts for more than 60 per cent of Scotland’s trade, but Scotland has only one trade promotion office in the rest of the UK, compared to 32 trade offices in other markets across the world. Does the cabinet secretary agree that having more trade offices in other parts of the UK would help to increase Scotland’s trade with our single most important market?

Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party

That is an interesting proposal. If Dean Lockhart wishes to encourage the Scottish Government to open offices right across these islands, who am I to object? His usual approach to the issue—he has taken me a bit by surprise with that question—is to demand that we must recognise that that trade is so important that we would disrupt it by not being in the same political union. However, if that were true, the UK would not be leaving the EU, so I am glad that he has moved on from that tired and erroneous argument to a new argument.

I shall consider carefully in the very short time that I have in office whether we should open an office in every burgh in which that would be possible throughout these lands—[

Laughter

.]—because it is an interesting prospect.