Jack: no decision on DRS without impact report
Scotland Secretary Alister Jack today insisted he had not received answers from the Scottish Government to questions that are holding up the controversial deposit return scheme.
Quizzed by MPs on the Scottish Affairs Committee about why the UK Government was not making progress in allowing the DRS to go ahead, he said there was a need for impact assessments, but these have not been forthcoming.
Work on the scheme was well-advanced before ministers were forced to delay the operational date from August to next March. Mr Jack said: “Before you build a house you get planning permission. The Scottish Government built a house and is now asking for planning permission. It is the wrong way round.
“They should have come and talked to us about an exemption and that did not happen.”
He was reminded that the process for achieving exemption under the Internal Market Act had begun last October.
Mr Jack said that there had been many talks among officials, but a formal request for exemption had not been received until 6 March. The UK Business Secretary, who will be among those who need to be consulted, had not been engaged in the process until that date, he said.
He declined to confirm whether or not the UK government would meet a deadline of the end of this month for providing exemption, but said he had asked for impact assessments of the effect the scheme would have on companies at an inter-governmental meeting of ministers on 17 April.
“I have been asking questions but I have not got those answers,” he said. “I cannot come to a decision until I see proper impact assessments so that I know we are making the right decision and we are not causing unnecessary consequences.”
He rejected an earlier assertion by Scotland’s First Minister that the UK Government was liable to meet any compensation claims resulting from delays to the scheme. Business groups have warned that the final bill could be as high as £500 million if the scheme is scrapped as Green Minister Lorna Slater has warned.
Earlier, Mr Jack said the two governments had different agendas on the constitution but he hoped they could work together on bringing about the DRS, the freeports and investment zones.
He reaffirmed his support for the the UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly who objected to Scottish ministers using foreign trips to promote their independence agenda.
Mr Cleverly’s intervention angered Scottish External Affairs Secretary Angus Robertson who accused the Foreign Secretary of making “misleading” statements and called for the guidance to be withdrawn.
Mr Jack told the committee that the guidance “didn’t go down very well with old Air Miles Angus for a very good reason – that is because he took offence at us calling him out visiting governments and talking to them about matters we know are reserved, the constitution and foreign affairs.
“It is quite clear: we want to work with the Scottish Government to promote areas that are devolved, but not facilitate swaying into areas that are reserved. They are undermining our foreign policy.”
Committee chairman Pete Wishart told him: “I don’t think intergovernmental relations have ever been at such a low ebb between the UK and Scottish governments.
“They seem to be characterised by mistrust, never ending conflict, and a sense of diktat.”
Mr Jack replied that the two administrations had differing stances on Scottish independence.
“The Scottish government get up each day and go to work to destroy the United Kingdom, I get up and go to work each day to strengthen the United Kingdom,” he said.
The Scottish secretary added: “I am honest, it is an honest position, they want to destroy the United Kingdom.
“They want to destroy the United Kingdom, they want to bring it to an end, they want to break it, whatever language you want to use.”