SNP blast over post-Brexit support backfires
An SNP MP’s attempt to embarrass the UK government’s records on replacing lost EU funds has backfired after Scottish ministers admitted they have failed to use the powers they were granted.
SNP Levelling Up spokesperson Chris Stephens said Westminster was ‘failing Scotland’ after it emerged the UK Infrastructure Bank (UKIB) set up after Brexit has provided barely a fifth of the support provided by the European Investment Bank (EIB).
In the five years before Brexit, the EIB provided £5bn a year to support projects in the UK. So far, the UKIB has provided just £1.5bn.
Mr Stephens said: “Scotland is being shortchanged by Westminster control.”
However, his criticism coincides with a Holyrood admission that Scottish ministers have used powers designed to allow them to “keep pace” with EU legislation just once since they came into force almost two years ago.
Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Willie Rennie accused the SNP Government of “paying lip service” to strengthening ties with Europe after ministers’ records emerged in a response to a parliamentary question.
The keeping pace power is contained in Section 1 of the UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Continuity) (Scotland) Bill. It allows Scottish ministers to enact legislation which aligns Scots law with future EU law, but only where ministers deem it “appropriate” to do so.
The Scottish Government confirmed that since the bill came into effect on 29 March 2021, it had been used just once and considered one further time but never subsequently used.
Mr Rennie said: “The Scottish Parliament has powers to keep pace with what’s happening in Europe, but now we learn that the SNP used that power just once.
“If the SNP seriously believed that Scottish independence inside the EU was our country’s destiny, surely they would be working hard to make that transition as smooth as possible by using these powers to keep pace with EU law?
“The nationalists have always paid lip service to Europe, failing to put in any meaningful work that would actually bring us closer with our neighbours. The keeping pace power seems to be part of that toxic and cynical brew.
“Let’s not forget that the SNP spent more time and money fighting a Shetland by-election than it ever did on the EU referendum.
“Liberal Democrats in Wales set in a motion a £65m Erasmus replacement that has lined up 6,000 exchange opportunities.
“Two years on, the SNP haven’t even lined up a consultation. Those are the kinds of steps we could be taking to rebuild ties with Europe.
“Scotland should learn the lessons of Brexit, not repeat them with separation.”