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New law planned

Russell accuses Johnson of new ‘power grab’

Mike Russell at SNP spring conference

Michael Russell: Tories undermining parliament (pic: Terry Murden)

Constitution Secretary Michael Russell has accused Boris Johnson’s government of preparing a Westminster law which he claims will undermine Scotland’s ability to create its own laws.

Mr Russell says the legislation will hand power to Tory ministers in devolved policy areas to protect the UK internal market after Brexit.

He says that if the law had already been in place it would have been more difficult for the Scottish government to keep tuition free for students in Scotland or set a  minimum unit price for alcohol.

In a letter to the Cabinet Office minister, Michael Gove, he says: “The Tories know they can’t win an election to the Scottish Parliament  so have come up with a scheme to undermine it instead.

“They are plotting, in an underhand manner, to introduce a new law which would effectively hand power to Tory ministers in devolved policy areas, under the guise of protecting what they call the so-called UK internal market after Brexit.

“Under their plans, if Westminster adopts lower standards in devolved areas, Scotland could be forced to accept them, regardless of the view of our Parliament.

This scheme amounts to using Brexit as a cover to mount the biggest power grab on the Scottish Parliament yet

– Michael Russell

“And they are considering setting up an unelected oversight body to set a new “internal market” test for any new Holyrood legislation. 

“If this law had been in force, our ability to keep tuition free for students in Scotland while charging students from the rest of the UK, to set a  minimum unit price for alcohol or introduce a smoking ban before the rest of the UK, could all have been in jeopardy.

“This scheme amounts to using Brexit as a cover to mount the biggest power grab on the Scottish Parliament yet and we will do all we can to stop it from happening.

“Any such proposals will be vigorously opposed by the Scottish Government and, I am sure, by others who will see these proposals for what they are, namely a deliberate attempt to place unacceptable and unnecessary constraints on the operation of the devolved settlement.”

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Ahead of this week’s statement from Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Finance Secretary Kate Forbes repeated her call for a range of new measures to support Scotland’s response to the current economic crisis brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Writing in advance of Mr Sunak’s Economic Update on 8 July, Ms Forbes has called for a National Debt Plan to help households experiencing financial hardship cope with loan, mortgage and rent payments.

The Finance Secretary also wants the UK Government to introduce a jobs guarantee for young people, to ensure they have access to work, an apprenticeship or training.

Other proposed measures include a temporary reduction in the standard rate of VAT to 15% and the easing of the financial restrictions imposed on devolved governments across the UK.

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