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Alister Jack: Scottish Government expected me to roll over on gender reforms

Alister Jack MP | Alamy

Alister Jack: Scottish Government expected me to roll over on gender reforms

Alister Jack has said the Scottish Government expected him to "roll over" on the Gender Recognition Reform Act.

The Secretary for State for Scotland has also said the House of Lords should review Scottish Government law-making.

Giving evidence to peers, Jack was asked why Whitehall did not step in to stop ex-Scottish Government minister Lorna Slater, who was in charge of the shelved Deposit Return Scheme (DRS), from "wasting hundreds of millions of pounds".

And, on the use of the Section 35 veto power against gender reforms passed by the Scottish Parliament, he said: "Believe me, I did the right thing."

Jack was giving evidence to the Lords' Constitution Committee in a session spanning more than two hours.

The panel invited the Scottish Conservative MP to give evidence to its inquiry on the Union alongside Welsh Secretary David TC Davies and Lord Caine, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Northern Ireland Office.

He said of the Scottish Government approach to law-making: "They either get their legislation over the line or they have a fight, they don't mind which."

Jack said devolution is "broadly working as intended" and "friction" between the UK and Scottish Governments is "not evidence of devolution failing".

The gender recognition reforms are one of several pieces of Holyrood legislation to have been found to impinge on UK-wide laws.

The DRS is another and the scheme's suspension caused agency Circularity Scotland to collapse, also leading to legal action against the Scottish Government by Biffa.

When asked by Labour peer George Foulkes why UK authorities did not act earlier to stop the progress of the DRS, Jack said he had been clear "at an early stage" that the DRS plan would have required the granting of an exemption under the UK-wide Internal Market Act. 

He told the panel: "They knew from a long distance out but they just thought if they kept going I would back down.

"They never believed I would do a Section 35 on the gender recognition [reforms]."

He went on: "It's this idea that they would sail on and I would roll over and not stand my ground and that was their misjudgement."

Jack said he believes there will be a return to a "Unionist regime in Holyrood" at the next Scottish Parliament election. Referring to the SNP's time in government, he said: "Devolution is not a bad thing. Where it's failed is bad governance.

"In the last 17 years, we've got poorer health service, we've got failing education standards, we've got diabolical ferry service to the islands, we've got higher drug deaths."

On how to strengthen devolution, he said: "Better review of legislation in Scotland could be one of the things we could improve upon in some sort of grand committee in this House.

"Helping to scrutinise and improve legislation would be a very good thing because I'm not alone in saying the committee structure in scrutinising legislation in Scotland has clearly been one of the failings."

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