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Amid ongoing feud over powers...

Laird demands Mundell ‘spill the beans’ on Brexit talks

Lesley LairdShadow Scottish Secretary Lesley Laird today called on David Mundell to “spill the beans” on his talks with Scotland’s Brexit minister on the impact of the EU Withdrawal Bill on devolution.

Yesterday the Scottish government said it has not reached a deal with the UK government over repatriation powers the EU Withdrawal Bill.

That left Holyrood standing alone after the Welsh government accepted Westminster’s terms.

Labour claims Mike Russell, Scotland’s Brexit Minister, was ready to do a deal with the UK government, but was rowed back by the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Today at Scottish Questions, Ms Laird called on the Scottish Secretary David Mundell to reveal what had been going on in the talks.

Ms Laird said: “It’s time for the people of Scotland to know what’s been going on behind closed doors.

“I asked David Mundell to tell the truth and shame the devil. It is clear that both parties are now presenting a different version of events and the people of Scotland deserve to have the facts laid bare.

“These discussions should be made public, so that voters can decide who is being unreasonable.

“While we expected this sort of posturing from the SNP Government, but it is simply unacceptable to put their grievance politics ahead of the need for a resolution. 

“Representatives from the Labour Government in Cardiff have been able to reach a deal which they believe does that. We need this sort of grown-up politics from the Scottish Government too.”

Theresa May

Theresa May: disappointed with Scottish government position

Prime Minister Theresa May said: “After many months we have reached agreement with the Welsh government. It’s a significant achievement. It will provide legal certainty, increased powers of devolved government and respect the devolution settlement.

“It is indeed disappointing that the Scottish Government have not yet felt able to add their agreement to the new amendments and we sincerely hope that they will reconsider their position.”

She also told Ian Blackford, the SNP’s Westminster leader, that Scottish businesses were most concerned to see uniform regulation across the UK.

In a statement issued before the debate three organisations came together to call for a common regulatory approach within the UK on food labelling and standards.

Mrs May said: “I suggest he [Mr Blackford] listens to those businesses who just yesterday from the Food and Drink Federation Scotland, Scottish Bakers and Scottish Retail Consortium said Scotland’s businesses benefit enormously from the existing and largely unfettered UK single market. The SNP Government in Scotland should listen to that.”

The three trade bodies said: “Our concern is less about where these 111 powers being repatriated from Brussels ultimately reside, rather it is about ensuring that on a small number of areas in particular – such as food and nutrition labelling and food compositional standards – that there is the fullest possible alignment post-Brexit, with the devolved and UK administrations working together on a shared approach in order to minimise duplication and discrepancy for manufacturers and retailers.

“Scotland’s businesses benefit enormously from the existing and largely unfettered UK single market. It allows manufacturers and retailers to capitalise on the efficiencies derived from regulatory consistency and economies of scale which in turn reduces business costs, increases productivity, and ultimately keeps down prices and provides more choice for customers.”

The Commons debate followed comments at Holyrood yesterday where Scottish Brexit minister Mike Russell told MSPs that there was still a “key sticking point” for his government on a “fundamental point of principle” over devolution.

He said ministers had given the latest amendments “serious and respectful consideration”, but said they “continue to give Westminster the power to prevent the Scottish Parliament from passing laws in certain devolved policy areas”.

He said: “The effect of the UK government’s latest proposal remains this: the Scottish Parliament’s powers could be restricted without consent. This is not something the Scottish government could recommend the Parliament approves.”

Ms Sturgeon suggested there were two ways to settle the dispute – by deleting the offending clause from the UK government’s EU Withdrawal Bill altogether, or by sticking with the present system of the UK government seeking the express consent of Holyrood for legislating in devolved areas.

Further talks between ministers are expected next week, with Mr Russell setting a deadline of the final reading of the Withdrawal Bill in the House of Lords – the middle of next month – for changes to be agreed.

The Scottish Conservatives said the SNP was “utterly isolated and exposed”.

The party’s constitution spokesman, Adam Tomkins, said the Scottish government had rejected the deal for “narrow political reasons”, namely “obsession with a second independence referendum”.

The Welsh government confirmed on Tuesday that it had reached an agreement with the UK government after “compromise on both sides”.

Finance Secretary Mark Drakeford said the deal meant powers that were currently devolved “remain devolved” .

And he said that “all powers and policy areas rest in Cardiff, unless specified to be temporarily held by the UK government”.

He added: “These will be areas where we all agree common, UK-wide rules are needed for a functioning UK internal market.”

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