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Brexit top priority for UK Government in Queen’s speech

Queen's speech December 2019 - Image credit: PA

Brexit top priority for UK Government in Queen’s speech

Brexit was the top priority as the new UK Government set out its plans in the Queen’s speech

The Queen’s speech, which is the equivalent of the programme for government in Scotland, sets out what the UK Government plans to do in the next session of parliament.

Of the 30 bills set out in the Queen’s speech, seven relate specifically to Brexit, with the UK Government’s “priority” to pass legislation to leave the EU by 31 January and then begin talks on a future free trade agreement.

The plan includes the creation of a Constitution, Democracy and Rights Commission to look at the relationship between government, parliament and the courts, repeal of the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act and work to restore devolution in Northern Ireland, but it makes clear that a second independence referendum is not on the cards and would be a “damaging distraction”.

“We want 2020 to be a year of opportunity, growth and unity for Scotland, not of further division,” it says.

Many of the specific actions and spending promises relate to England, but they will have implications for Scotland as it gets a share of any increased spending on areas such as education, health and justice through the Barnett formula.

The UK Government is promising Scotland a “£1.2bn cash boost” as the result of its public spending commitments.

Boris Johnson promised the NHS the “biggest ever cash injection in its history” as well as a multi-year NHS budget enshrined in law.

The Queen’s speech also set out plans for a points-based immigration system, with a fast track visa for doctors, nurses and other health professionals coming to work in the NHS.

The UK Government promised to raise the minimum wage and the national insurance threshold, and to invest in the country’s public services and infrastructure while also keeping borrowing and debt “under control”.

Commenting on the Queens’ speech Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said: “Legislation outlined in the Queen’s Speech will mean we can finally get Brexit done, leave the EU on 31 January and forge a bright future for Scotland and the rest of the UK.

“We will take back control of our fishing waters, introduce a modern, fairer points-based immigration system.

“We will free our farmers from the bureaucratic Common Agricultural Policy and move to a system that works for them.

“We will put the arguments and uncertainty behind us, agree the Prime Minister’s deal, and go on to strike ambitious trade deals around the world. 

“Today, the Prime Minister has once again made clear his unwavering commitment to strengthening the Union and bringing all parts of our country together.

“People in Scotland are fed up with constant political wrangling and wasteful debate.

“That is why we will not support the First Minister’s plans for another unwanted referendum on separation.

“We will also take steps to improve the environment and keep the UK at the forefront of tackling climate change.

“The UK Government is bringing world leaders to Glasgow for the COP26 conference next year.

“It will showcase our advanced renewable sector, give a huge boost to the local economy and have a lasting legacy for our global environment.”

However, the SNP, which produced its own 12-point alternative Queen’s speech, said it showed “contempt for Scotland”.

SNP Westminster leader, Ian Blackford MP, said: “The Tory government’s legislative programme would spell disaster for Scotland – taking a wrecking ball to our economic and social foundations.

“Rather than addressing key challenges facing the country by ending a decade of austerity, safeguarding our valuable NHS from the dangers of a post-Brexit trade deal, and recognising the democratic right of Scotland’s right to choose a better future, the Tories have instead set out an agenda that serves the party’s narrow interests, not the interests of the country.

“In stark contrast to the deeply damaging legislative programme set out by the Tory government, the SNP published an ambitious twelve-point plan that sought to boost the economy, protect our public services, tackle poverty, deliver action on climate change and respect Scotland’s right to choose.

“The Tories’ plans for government only goes to show the divergent path Scotland finds itself on from the rest of the UK.

“From its proposed hostile immigration system, its failure to match the SNP government's commitments on health spending and the climate emergency, the sell-out of our fishing and agriculture sector, and its extreme Brexit plans that will harm our country – this is a Tory government that is actively acting against Scotland’s interests.

“In this parliament, SNP MPs will provide the strong, effective and united opposition to the Tories that the country needs, and we will protect Scotland's democratic right to choose our own future - so we can get on with building a fairer and progressive country for all its citizens.”

Read the most recent article written by Jenni Davidson - Associate feature: Building capacity in the south of Scotland

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