Alister Jack accuses Nicola Sturgeon of misleading Scottish public
Alister Jack, has accused First Minister Nicola Sturgeon of making “false claims” about the UK Government’s post-Brexit plans for a UK internal market.
The Secretary of State for Scotland wrote to Sturgeon seeking to “correct” statements made about the recently published UK Internal Market Bill, which he said would lead to the people of Scotland being “misinformed”.
The UK Government’s bill is a “win-win” for Scotland that has the potential to “improve lives and strengthen our country”, he said, and criticised Sturgeon for her “colourful” and “regrettable” descriptions of the bill.
Published on Wednesday, the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill sets out plans for how goods and standards will be regulated after the UK leaves the EU Common Market at the end of the Brexit transition period.
It will be debated by MPs in the House of Commons in the coming weeks.
The bill has attracted significant criticism because sections of it would in effect change parts of the EU Withdrawal Agreement, in particular related to Northern Ireland and trade.
On Tuesday the UK Government’s Northern Ireland minister, Brandon Lewis, confirmed in parliament that the changes would “break international law”. The government’s chief legal adviser subsequently quit.
Sturgeon has described the bill as “a full-frontal assault on devolution” and an “abomination” and the Scottish Government has said it will not vote to give it legislative consent.
Jack’s letter addresses six statements Sturgeon and Scottish Government ministers have made about the bill.
The Secretary of State for Scotland said he was seeking to “correct a series of assertions” Sturgeon made about the bill.
Jack said that the Scottish Parliament would lose “none of its existing powers” and insisted that “scores of new responsibilities will flow to Holyrood” instead.
He added that the UK Government “emphatically supports devolution” and argued that the bill will “strengthen the Scottish Parliament”.
Referencing comments made on the bill leading to a “race to the bottom” on food standards and environmental protections, Jack said: “The UK is a world leader in food and environmental standards and that will not change”.
He promised that the UK Government will not sign any trade deal that would allow for products such as chlorine-washed chicken to be sold in the UK and denied that the bill would have posed a threat to policy in devolved areas, such as alcohol minimum unit pricing.
Jack also said it was “good news” that the UK Government would in future be able to spend money directly on infrastructure projects in Scotland and challenged comments Sturgeon made about funding being directed at projects like a bridge to Northern Ireland instead of schools or hospitals, saying decisions in those areas were for the Scottish Government to take and UK spend would “complement” existing powers.
Jack challenged claims that the bill would “break” or “cripple” devolution, instead arguing that it is the Scottish Government that wants to “destroy devolution”.
He said: “I’m afraid your Government is never less convincing than when it purports to champion a system it unashamedly wishes to overthrow.
“Independence would destroy devolution, ending our system of two governments which was backed overwhelmingly by the people of Scotland in the referendums of 1997 and 2014.
“The UK Government emphatically supports devolution and our Bill will strengthen the Scottish Parliament and create new opportunities for Scotland.
“Your colourful description of the Internal Market Bill as ‘an abomination’ is deeply regrettable.
“In my view, it would be abominable for the people of Scotland to be misinformed about a Bill which has such potential to improve lives and strengthen our country.”