Internal Market Bill blasted for ‘stomping on devolution in tackety boots’


BORIS Johnson’s Government has been accused of “stomping all over” the devolution settlement in “their great big tackety boots”, as MPs debated controversial Brexit powers.

The United Kingdom Internal Market Bill contains powers which enable Westminster to provide financial assistance for economic development, infrastructure, cultural activities and education purposes.

However, the SNP’s Treasury spokesperson Alison Thewliss said: “If you were to take them at their word perhaps you would think that the UK Government is doing Scotland some kind of kindness.

“Who would object to something called financial assistance after all?”

Thewliss pointed out the Government’s willingness to “lie to the Queen and break international law”, asking: “What is this Government’s word really worth?”

The Glasgow Central MP went on: “The people of Scotland are not daft. They see what’s going on.

READ MORE: Scottish Tory Advocate General asks to quit over illegal Internal Market Bill

“This bill short-changes us and rides roughshod over hard-fought devolution powers.

“We were promised near-federalism, we were promised the strongest devolved legislature in the world.

“What we’ve got is Dominic Cummings and co stomping all over the devolution settlement in their great big tackety boots.”

She added the UK Government’s “ultimate failed infrastructure project is the Union itself”, noting: “This tawdry bill disrespects the Scottish Parliament and the people who elect it, and it’ll only serve to ensure that when we have our chance to vote again, Scotland will be an independent country.”

Thewliss earlier argued that the bill would allow an “autocratic” minister of the UK Government to “directly fund on a whim” infrastructure projects including water, electricity, gas, telecommunications, railway facilities, roads, court or prison facilities, and housing.

She told the committee stage of the bill: “In areas which are devolved, no UK Government minister of the crown has any business acquiring, designing, constructing, converting, improving, operating and repairing our infrastructure.

“Under this the UK Government could have recourse to build a court or prison in Scotland where they have no oversight of the justice system, a school where they have no remit over education, a road where they have no remit over transport, and a water treatment works where we already have the most successful and publicly owned water company in these islands.”

Intervening, Conservative former minister Stephen Crabb (above), said: “At the heart of her argument is a really serious proposition which I think every Unionist in this House should find objectionable.

“And that’s this elected UK Government should never have the ability to spend money in all corners of the United Kingdom for the benefit of its citizens.”

Thewliss replied: “It’s called devolution, which this Parliament voted for, the Scottish people and the Welsh people and Northern Irish people have voted for.

“It’s the settled will of our people and it’s democracy.”

READ MORE: SNP MP recovering from brain surgery excluded from Westminster votes

The SNP’s Patricia Gibson (North Ayrshire and Arran) said an “attack on devolution” is at the heart of the legislation, adding: “It’s not about who spends what where, it’s an attack on the Scotland Act, an attack on the Scottish people, an attack on the sovereignty of the Scottish people.”

Conservative former minister Sir John Redwood said clauses 46 and 47 of the Bill ensure the Vote Leave pledge to replace, via the UK Government, money and investment supplied through the European Union.

He said: “The United Kingdom will not lose, it will gain, as a result of changes in the arrangement for funding large projects and suitable investments.”

The Bill has hit the headlines in recent days for new additions which seek to override key elements of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement relating to Northern Ireland.

Johnson has argued such changes, which would breach parts of international law, are needed to protect the trading arrangements between Great Britain and Northern Ireland should no agreement be reached with the EU.

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