Letter to FM

Jack accuses Sturgeon of false claims on market bill

Alister Jack launched fierce attack on Nicola Sturgeon’s claims

Scotland Secretary Alister Jack has accused First Minister Nicola Sturgeon of making “false” and “regrettable” claims about Westminster’s plans to create an internal market for the UK.

In a sternly worded letter, Mr Jack refutes six key claims made by Ms Sturgeon, stating they are incorrect and that the bill will strengthen, not weaken Scotland’s economy.

Mr Jack states that there will be no race to the bottom on food standards, and that the Scottish Parliament will lose none of its powers.

“Your colourful description of the Internal Market Bill as ‘an abomination’ is deeply regrettable,” he says.

“In my view, it would be abominable for the people of Scotland to be misinformed about a Bill which has such potential to improve lives and strengthen our country.”

Mr Jack offers a defence of the bill which was introduced to the House of Commons on Wednesday.

Full text of Letter:

Dear Nicola

I am writing to correct the false claims you have made about the UK Government’s Internal Market Bill.

As we’ve been clear, the Bill will protect and strengthen our internal market which is so vital to Scotland’s economy with 60% of our exports, worth over £50 billion per year, going to other parts of the United Kingdom.

It will also create new opportunities for the UK Government, working with the Scottish Government, local authorities and other partners, to invest in ScotlandThat’s why I have described the Bill as a win-win for Scotland.

Scottish Parliament Holyrood

Mr Jack says Holyrood will lose none of its powers (pic: Terry Murden)

It is good for business, jobs and consumers. It will boost our economy and help us rebuild from the devastating effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Bill has now begun its passage through Parliament and will be debated at length in the weeks ahead.

In accordance with the Sewel Convention, the UK Government will seek a Legislative Consent Motion so the Scottish Parliament, also, will have the opportunity to consider our proposals.”

Before this takes place, I wish to correct a series of assertions you have made about the Bill.

1. You have said the Bill will lead to a ‘race to the bottom’ in terms of food standards and environmental protections. That is emphatically not the case.

The UK is a world leader in food and environmental standards and that will not change.

Also, as you know, the UK Government and all devolved administrations have agreed a common framework on food and feed safety and hygiene law which clearly sets out the ‘rules and regulations related to the production and distribution of food and feed’. Guaranteeing our shared commitment to high standards across the UK.

The UK Government is proud of our record and keenly aware of the premium our high standards place on UK goods in overseas markets.

2. Similarly, your speculation that Scotland could be ‘forced to accept chlorinated chicken’ is unfounded.

As we have previously reminded Scottish Government ministers during discussions about the Bill, chlorine washed chicken is illegal in the UK. The UK Government has been clear we will not sign a trade deal that would compromise our high standards of food safety, animal welfare and environmental protection.

Of course, we recognise and welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment to high standards in these areas. Our shared view should be the basis of an agreed UK approach to high standards.

3. You also claimed the new spending power contained in the Bill could divert funding from schools and hospitals in Scotland. This is not the case.

Education and health are – and will continue to be – devolved to the Scottish Parliament and decisions on funding in those areas are for your Government to take. Scotland’s block grant is at a record level and the Barnett Formula will continue to operate as set out in the Statement on Funding Policy.

The UK Government’s spending power set out in the Bill will complement existing Scottish Government spending powers. This can only be a benefit to the people and businesses of Scotland.

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