Scottish Devolution and Article 50

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:30 pm on 15th March 2017.

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Photo of Deidre Brock Deidre Brock Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Scottish Parliament/Scottish Government Liaison), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Devolved Government Relations) 4:30 pm, 15th March 2017

My hon. Friend makes an excellent point that I completely agree with. The National Farmers Union of Scotland shares many of his views. It has told me that Brexit is the biggest challenge to Scottish food producers in generations. Farmers, food processing companies and hauliers need migrant workers, access to European markets and guarantees on future financial support. Many of Scotland’s farmers depend on that financial support to remain solvent.

The NFUS is clear that the issue should be in the purview of the Scottish Government, and that the cash should follow that competency. That would be around £600 million a year, or £3.5 billion over the current seven-year cycle. More than 20,000 businesses in Scotland receive common agricultural policy payments, and more than 3,000 of those receive less than £1,000 each; that is subsistence, not luxury. We have no idea what the Government intend to happen—whether the cash will be ponied up for our farmers or what other support is in the pipeline.

We all know that the Government are sick and fed up of having to think about the fate of European citizens here and want it tied to UK citizens abroad—the very definition of bargaining chips. We know that because the Prime Minister keeps telling us. Scotland needs those citizens. Half of Scotland’s population growth in the past 15 years has come from EU citizens, who have come and made a huge contribution to the country. Four fifths of them are of working age, and four fifths of those are employed. They drive Scotland’s economy and contribute taxes, which are of course to be collected for the Scottish Government from April. Scotland cannot hang on and hope that we get something for those people. We need it now because they need it now, so that they can plan ahead rather than planning to leave.

We do not need warm words and vague hopes that a deal can be done, but straightforward action, and now. Scotland needs the UK Government to make the necessary changes now to give EU nationals continuing legal rights—of residence, movement, economic activity and study—that would need legislation to be removed, not a promise to look at it sometime in the future. That is what Scotland needs, what the Scottish economy needs, what Scotland’s public sector workforce needs and what the devolution settlement needs.

If the UK Government want to make a decent fist of Brexit, they have to start being honest. The Prime Minister has to stop telling us that she is consulting with the devolved Administrations when she clearly is not.