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by Kirsteen Paterson
19 June 2023
Alister Jack: Boris Johnson's achievements will serve Scotland well for decades

Alister Jack: Boris Johnson's achievements will serve Scotland well for decades

Alister Jack has said decisions Boris Johnson took for Scotland will serve the country well "for decades to come".

In an exclusive interview with Holyrood magazine, Jack - a close ally of Johnson - called the Scottish Government "hostile" and claimed former First Minister Donald Dewar would have created a 'tighter' Scotland Act if he had known "what we know now".

Published today, the wide-ranging interview sees the Scottish Secretary defend his use of Section 35 of the Scotland Act to block the Scottish Government's Gender Recognition Reform (GRR) Bill and state he has "always been a feminist".

In a new paper last week, Scottish constitution secretary Angus Robertson said that Section 35 veto and a refusal to back the Deposit Return Scheme had "eroded devolution". On Saturday, he said the current constitutional arrangements "fail to protect the key values held by those who live in Scotland".

However, Jack told Holyrood editor Mandy Rhodes: "The argument that invoking a [Section] 35 is an attack on devolution is about the most stupid argument I’ve ever heard."

Insisting there must be a "mechanism to say stop" where legislation from devolved administrations "cuts across and confuses" UK-wide law, he went on: "To suggest it is an attack on devolution is utter foolishness – what it is, is protecting devolution."

The Scottish Government is taking the UK Government to court over the block to its GRR Bill, which achieved cross-party support in December.

Jack said he has "always been a feminist as a husband, as a father, and now as a grandfather".

The current devolution system allows a "hostile government in Holyrood" to "push the boundaries" and seek divergence for the sake of divergence", he said, stating: "I think if Donald Dewar was putting that Scotland Act together again, knowing what we know now, as opposed to what they thought then, it would have been a different Scotland Act. 

"I’ve made this accusation to some in the Labour Party, including Tony Blair, that the Scotland Act maybe wasn’t as tightly written at the time as it could have been. It could have included a requirement for more transparency on spending, for instance, there could have been more accountability, and it maybe was a little bit loosely written because a Labour government was writing it from basically a belief that there was always going to be a Labour regime in place, a Labour prime minister, a Labour secretary of state, Labour first minister, and they obviously thought they were going to have control of Scotland forever."

MPs will today vote on the sanctions recommended against the former prime minister after the Privileges Committee found he had deliberately misled parliament over partygate.

He has denied wrongdoing and, in an interview conducted before the report was published, Jack said he was "sorry the way things ended" for the ex-PM. He stated: "I think the decisions he took for Scotland will serve Scotland very well for decades to come."

He went on: "I know the public perception was that he was not popular in Scotland, I understand that, but it was a false perception. I found when I walked the streets with him in Scotland, people were incredibly supportive. We never received any abuse in the time I was with him, and we made four or five visits together.

"I’m not someone who bears grudges. I don’t smoulder over things. But my view is that I’m very fond of Boris, I think he’s an enormous talent and I was very sorry the way things ended. But he’s still got a lot to offer and as to the people who brought him down, well, it’s not for me to fight other people’s battles."

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