Scottish and UK governments’ relationship ‘under pressure like never before’
The relationship between the governments in London and Edinburgh is “under pressure like never before” over Brexit, a senior SNP MP has claimed.
Chair of the Scottish affairs select committee Pete Wishart told MPs “things have to change dramatically” and urged “parity of esteem” between the governments of Scotland, Wales and the Northern Ireland Executive with Westminster.
During a Commons debate yesterday marking 20 years since devolution, Mr Wishart said: “What we have found is that inter-governmental relations are under pressure like never before.” He added: “They have been challenged within an inch of their lives by Brexit.”
The relationships between the governments have not kept pace with the developments of devolution, he claimed, adding: “The machinery for dialogue and engagement has not kept up with the evolving dynamics of devolution.
“On a sub-political level, the work between civil servants, for example, continues unabated.”
In a recent report, the Scottish Affairs Select Committee recommended increasing the powers of the Joint Ministerial Council where the leaders of the devolved governments can engage with Westminster. Mr Wishart also warned any calls for a second Scottish independence referendum from the Scottish Parliament must be adhered to.
He said: “This is a matter for the Scottish people. The Scottish people should always get what the Scottish people want.”
Conservative David Duguid said the “spirit of devolution” of decisions being taken closer to home “has not taken root entirely” within the Scottish Government. He said: “Successive Labour and SNP Scottish governments have hoarded power in Holyrood and governed primarily, it’s been suggested, for the Central Belt.
“While English city regions are getting more control over their own affairs to accompany growth deals, Nicola Sturgeon is ensuring Scotland remains rigidly centralised.”
Labour’s shadow Scotland minister Paul Sweeney said some of the powers the Scottish Parliament had to change income tax or welfare policy were not being used.
Following the debate, Mr Wishart introduced legislation that would see the UK follow Scotland in having a parliamentary vote to approve the appointment of a new Prime Minister.
MSPs elect a new First Minister after an election, but the next Prime Minister is set to be chosen by Conservative Party members.
“It is completely ludicrous that in a modern democracy just 100,000 Tory Party members will get to anoint the next Prime Minister for the whole of the UK – without parliament, or the 66 million people who live here, having any say whatsoever,” Mr Wishart said.
He added: “First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her entire Cabinet had to be nominated and approved by the Scottish Parliament.
“The UK government must ensure time to debate this bill, so Westminster can follow Scotland’s lead and pass it into law. People in Scotland are looking on in horror at the appalling choice of Tory Prime Minister that is being forced upon us with no regard for our wishes.”