Leaked documents show Tories hid power grab threat

THE TORIES have been caught hiding their “worst case scenario” documents on Brexit from the devolved governments, according to leaked documents. 

A planning paper, uncovered by the Guido Fawkes website, appears to show the UK Government calling for information to be deliberately withheld. 

The “Transition period planning assumptions (central case)” document, written and circulated to Cabinet ministers in June, includes the controversial plans to put powers over state-aid after Brexit firmly in the hands of ministers in Whitehall.

When proposal first appeared in the Financial Times a month later, it provoked anger from the administrations in Edinburgh and Cardiff.

Nicola Sturgeon described it as a “full-scale assault on devolution” and a “blatant move to erode the powers of the Scottish Parliament”.

Nevertheless, it ultimately appeared in the Internal Market Bill. 

In that initial document, Tory ministers were told that the plans “should not be shared publicly or with the devolved administrations at this stage”.

A companion document outlined the “reasonable worst case scenario” for food supply.

It warned there could be “a tightening of supply and an increase in demand for certain agri-food products, but not cause an overall food shortage.”

The paper went on: “The effect of this disruption is likely to be reduced supply availability, especially of certain fresh products”. 

That document also includes “handling instructions,” telling ministers not to share details with the Scottish Government.

“Food is a devolved policy area. We have not shared this assumption with DA [Devolved Administrations] as per handling instructions, but it will have an impact on DAs and their planning,” it reads.

The SNP’s deputy Westminster leader, Kirsten Oswald said:”These leaked documents prove that the Tory government deliberately hid crucial information about its extreme Brexit plans – including the likelihood of food shortages – from the devolved nations, as well as details about the Tory power grab on the Scottish Parliament.

“It demonstrates, yet again, that the Tories cannot be trusted to act in Scotland’s interests – or even tell the truth.”

She added: “Scotland has been completely ignored by Westminster throughout the Brexit process. It is clear we will never be treated as an equal partner in the UK. The only way to protect Scotland’s interests and our place in Europe is to become an independent country.”

The UK Government said they had held hundreds of discussions with the devolved administrations over Brexit. 

A spokesperson said:”We frequently engage with the Devolved Administrations on contingency planning for the end of the transition period.

“The Scottish Government, Northern Ireland Executive and Welsh Government attended an Exit Operations [XO] Cabinet committee on contingency planning earlier today where food supply was discussed. We have shared all relevant planning assumptions with them, including the Reasonable Worst Case Scenario document on food supplies.

“With fewer than three months until the end of the transition period, we will continue to work constructively with the Devolved Administrations to ensure the whole of the United Kingdom is ready for the changes ahead.

“This includes the opportunities that will arise due to the vast number of powers transferring from Brussels to Holyrood at the end of the year, representing a power surge for the Devolved Administrations.”

The revelations come ahead of a debate in the Scottish Parliament on whether or not to give the Internal Market Bill legislative consent. 

Though the vote on Wednesday can ultimately be ignored by the UK Government, the Scottish Government’s Constitution Secretary, Michael Russell, said MSPs “stand up and defend devolution.”

He added: “Quite simply the Internal Market Bill is an unprecedented threat to the Scottish Parliament’s powers. If lower food and environmental standards are allowed elsewhere in the UK it will force Scotland to accept these standards regardless of any laws passed at Holyrood.

“The Bill will also mean the UK Government taking control of key devolved spending powers and the devolved policy area of state aid.

“The Scottish Government cannot recommend consent to a Bill that undermines devolution so fundamentally and breaks international law and we urge parliamentarians to refuse consent.”

MSPs were also urged to withhold consent by nearly all of the members of Holyrood’s Finance & Constitution Committee.

In findings published on Tuesday, they said the legislation undermined the whole basis of devolution.

In a letter sent to both the UK and Scottish Governments, committee convener Bruce Crawford said:“The Committee previously recommended that there is an onus on all four governments and legislatures across the UK to work constructively together to seek a solution to this complex and challenging issue. The Committee also recommended that this must be achieved through mutual trust and respect for the existing constitutional arrangements within the UK.

“The Committee concludes that it is highly regrettable that this has not happened. The Committee is dismayed that the UK Government has instead adopted a hierarchical approach through which its default position is to impose new limitations on devolution which go way beyond the previous limitations of EU membership.

“The Committee’s view is that the Internal Market Bill and the market access principles in particular undermines the whole basis of devolution. The Committee’s view is that devolution cannot work on the basis of the Westminster Government imposing its view of how the UK’s constitutional arrangements should evolve following Brexit as illustrated by both the substance and delivery of the Internal Market Bill.”

Tory MSPs Murdo Fraser, Dean Lockhart and Alexander Burnett MSP all dissented to the committee’s findings.

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