SNP conference: John Swinney predicts 'winter of Brexit discontent'

Scotland’s deputy first minister is set to tell SNP members today that Boris Johnson and Michael Gove are attempting to “dismantle devolution” and warn of a new “winter of discontent” as a result of Brexit-related shortages.

Sunday, 12th September 2021, 4:55 am
Updated Sunday, 12th September 2021, 6:45 am

In a hard-hitting speech on the third day of the SNP conference, John Swinney will claim the UK government is attempting to “dictate” how money is spent in devolved areas.

The Scottish Government has already raised similar concerns with the Internal Markets Bill and last week’s decision by Boris Johnson to raise National Insurance, with the Prime Minister stipulating the money which will increase Scotland’s budget as a result, must be spent on health and social care.

However Mr Swinney’s comments, trailed by the party ahead of his speech, were heavily criticised by the Conservatives as a “distraction” from his party’s “coalition of chaos” with the Scottish Greens.

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Mr Swinney, the Cabinet Secretary responsible for Covid recovery, is expected to tell delegates at the virtual conference that the UK government “will cut our budget, diverting funding to pork barrel, pet-projects in Tory held seats.

"They will plaster the country with union flags. And they take every opportunity they have to undermine the Scottish Government.

"But the problem they will face with their muscular unionism is that they do not have the brains to match the brawn.”

Hitting out at the UK government’s decision to leave the EU, customs union and single market in the wake of the 2016 referendum vote, he is also expected to say: “There is perhaps no greater example of how the union has failed Scotland than the sorry saga of Brexit.

“Boris Johnson once spoke of Brexit and the ‘sunlit meadows beyond’, but the reality he has delivered is food rotting in the fields because there is no one there to pick it.

“The end of freedom of movement, and the draconian clampdown of migration from the EU has been a disaster for the economy – not just here in Scotland but the whole of the UK.

“Perhaps the most obvious example is the empty shelves in our supermarkets. But staff shortages are beginning to bite across the economy.

“The Tories are unwilling and unable to take the simple steps required to fix the problem they have created. The UK is facing a winter of discontent and Westminster isn’t working.”

Earlier this month, Scottish food retailers and those in the restaurant industry revealed they were struggling with staff and supply chain issues, with many sounding early warnings ahead of the busy run up to Christmas.

However, responding to Mr Swinney’s comments Scottish Conservative health spokesperson Annie Wells said the SNP blamed Brexit “because they’ve got nothing else to say”.

She added: “The nationalist coalition of chaos will wreck Scotland’s recovery with their push for another divisive referendum, on the back of 14 years where they’ve let down Scotland time and time again.

"No new ideas to tackle the drug deaths crisis they created, nothing to help the businesses they’ve shafted for years, and no plans to cut down on shocking ambulance waiting times.

"They’re ramping up division to distract from their decade of disasters that have hit our schools, hospitals, jobs, businesses, ferries and just about everything else in Scotland.”

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