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by Staff reporter
03 October 2023
MSPs vote to scrap UK Internal Market Act

Jamie Hepburn and Humza Yousaf

MSPs vote to scrap UK Internal Market Act

Members of the Scottish Parliament have voted to axe the UK Internal Market Act. 

In a Scottish Parliament debate,  Independence Minister Jamie Hepburn said the post-Brexit legislation - which was brought in by the UK Government to prevent trade barriers between the four nations of the UK - could open up Scotland’s water and health services to "market access principles" and called on the Tory administration to repeal it. 

Today’s vote cannot force the UK Government to act. 

The legislation was put in place without Scottish Parliament consent and it was under the terms of the UK Internal Market Act that the Deposit Return Scheme fell. UK ministers refused to grant the exemption required for the enactment of the recycling initiative without changes being made and it was ultimately shelved.  

Following the debate, Hepburn - who became the first person to hold the Scottish Government portfolio, which was created by First Minister Humza Yousaf - said: "In 1997, the people of Scotland voted for a Scottish Parliament. They wanted decisions about Scotland to be taken in Scotland. 

"However, UK ministers are now using the Internal Market Act to wrest control of key devolved powers, bypassing Scotland's democratically-elected parliament and removing accountability for public spending decisions in devolved areas. Today, Scotland's Parliament has agreed the Internal Market Act must be repealed and the UK Government must listen." 

Hepburn went on: "The Internal Market Act gives UK ministers powers to effectively change the devolution settlement unilaterally through secondary legislation, with only UK ministers able to grant or refuse exclusions. We are now in a situation where there is a chilling effect on our ability to legislate effectively, including for example Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme. 

"While there are areas that are excluded from the Internal Market Act, such as health services, social services and water services, the UK Government could unilaterally open these areas up to the Act’s market access principles and we would be powerless to stop them. The Common Framework process, based on the principles of democratic accountability and respect for devolution agreed by the four UK governments in 2017, is the right forum to work together on matters of regulatory divergence. 

"The Internal Market Act is hostile to democratic decisions by the Scottish Parliament; causing practical damage and it needs to go." 

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