Brexit has challenged intergovernmental relations ‘within an inch of their lives’

Written by Emily Woods on 12 July 2019 in News

UK and Scottish government relations are “under pressure like never before”, SNP MP Pete Wishart has told the House of Commons

SNP MP Pete Wishart speaking in House of Commons yesterday - Image credit: Westminster

Intergovernmental relations between UK and Scottish governments are “under pressure like never before” and have been “challenged within an inch of their lives” by Brexit, SNP MP Pete Wishart has told the House of Commons.

Wishart raised the issue during a debate on 20 years of devolution in the house yesterday, where he spoke about the past and future, noting: “the one thing that you can say about devolution is it’s never boring.”

“The relationships between the governments haven’t kept pace with the developments of devolution, and the machinery for dialogue and engagement hasn’t kept up with the evolving dynamics of devolution,” Wishart said.

“What we have found is that intergovernmental relations are under pressure like never before, and it seems to be like, having emerged from the experience of the independence referendum, they have been challenged within an inch of their lives because of Brexit.”

He continued: “What was curious about independence referendum is that intergovernmental relations survived that, relatively intact, because there was a need for engagement between the two governments.

“The agreed objective during the independence referendum was that it would be done properly and constitutionally – but Brexit has broken that,” he said.

Wishart said the “good news” was at a “sub-political level” the work between civil servants in both the Scottish and UK governments “functioned well”.

“The work between civil servants, for example, continues unabated, and we heard solid evidence from senior civil servants that all of this has been conducted perfectly well,” Wishart said.

In June, a Scottish Affairs Select Committee report recommended increasing the powers of the Joint Ministerial Council and reviewing the role of the Scotland Office and Secretary of State for Scotland.

“It’s right that we keep devolution under review, I’m proud of what my committee has done, we suggested a number of far reaching conclusions and reforms, that if implemented we believe will make a significant difference to the quality of intergovernmental relations,” Wishart said.

After the devolution debate, Wishart introduced a bill requiring a vote in Westminster to nominate any future prime minister. The Prime Minister (Nomination) and Cabinet (Appointment) bill would introduce a similar system to that in the Scottish Parliament, where MSPs nominate and approve the positions of first minister and cabinet.

“It is completely ludicrous that in a modern democracy just 100,000 Tory Party members will get to anoint the next prime minister for the whole of the UK – without parliament, or the sixty-six million people who live here, having any say whatsoever,” Wishart said.

“The UK government must get behind this important new law, which would ensure any future prime minister is approved in a parliamentary vote and prevent another shameful and utterly undemocratic Tory coronation.”

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