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PM concerned for union

Johnson heads to Scotland as ‘power grab’ row deepens

Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon at Bute House

During his last visit to Scotland Mr Johnson left via the back door of Bute House

Boris Johnson will visit Scotland this week in a bid to tackle a surge in support for independence and to quell growing dissent over plans to create a post-Brexit internal market.

The fragile “covid consensus” which has allowed the four UK administrations to work together has begun to crack amid arguments over post-Brexit plans that the SNP regard as a “power grab” by the Westminster government.

Mr Johnson’s ministers have insisted that the white paper’s proposals are necessary in order to establish new standards currently held by Brussels. They say it will lead to more powers being transferred to the devolved governments.

However, SNP ministers, led by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, disagree. They say the powers of the Scottish parliament will be eroded.

The row has contributed to a rise in support for independence. Panelbase studies published in June and July found 54% of Scots now back a Yes vote, a five-point surge since March.

Scottish Constitution Secretary Michael Russell has promised legal action to challenge the Westminster government’s right to over-ride the Scottish parliament.

Scottish Labour’s Brexit and the Constitution Spokesperson Alex Rowley was also critical of the UK government’s proposal, calling it “nothing short of an attack on the devolution settlement”, and said it would weaken support for the union.

He said: “The Tories claiming their proposals for a UK internal market will deliver greater devolution is disingenuous at best, and a threat to the stability of the UK at worst.

“This heavy handed approach by the Tories is undermining the collaborative approach necessary for devolution to work effectively and does nothing more than help drive the pro-independence narrative.”

Mr Rowley added: “Scotland doesn’t want poor food standards imposed on us by Westminster, nor does it want anything that can threaten our NHS by increased access to foreign private markets. Forcing devolved administrations to accept goods and services from the rest of the UK even where the standards don’t meet our requirements undermines the very principle of devolution.

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“Surely any internal market should have the full consent of all four nations of the UK, the Tories seem content to railroad through this principle and try to impose their view over devolved administrations – a move that is totally unacceptable.”

Mr Johnson wants to turn attention on to what he sees as the Scottish government’s failings on education and health, as well as the underperforming economy.

He is expected to pay a brief visit to Scotland as part of a wider tour of the UK.

Comment: Time to calm down over ‘power grab’

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