Relations between the Scottish and UK governments have reached a new low as furious SNP leaders threatened to withdraw their cooperation with Westminster, accusing Conservatives there of forcing through a Brexit “power grab” by the backdoor.
Scottish Government ministers and SNP MPs were outraged when amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill related to devolution were passed by the House of Commons after just 15 minutes of debate – with Cabinet Office minister David Lidington the only member who made a speech.
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said: “I’m afraid the normal relationships between the Scottish and Westminster governments have to be impacted by this.”
Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: “The Tories couldn’t have made it any clearer today that they have no respect for @ScotParl. Never again will the line that Scotland is an equal partner in Westminster system be believed.”
The Tories couldn’t have made it any clearer today that they have no respect for @ScotParl. Never again will the line that Scotland is an equal partner in Westminster system be believed. The decision to act without our consent, and the manner of doing it, will not be forgotten.
— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) June 12, 2018
The Scottish First Minister added: “The decision to act without our consent, and the manner of doing it, will not be forgotten.”
It comes as ministers in Edinburgh and London have been engaged in a standoff over what should happen to powers returning to the UK after Brexit.
While Conservatives at Westminster say some of these must go to Parliament to allow for common frameworks to be established in areas such as agriculture and environmental regulations, ministers at Holyrood fear the powers of the Scottish Parliament could be restrained for up to seven years.
Scottish secretary David Mundell hit out at the nationalists for “constitutional posturing”, saying it was “quite clear that it was never going to be possible to get agreed amendments because quite simply the Scottish Government, the SNP, Nicola Sturgeon have a different view of the constitution from everybody else”.
He told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “Even if we had had 100 hours of debate the outcome wouldn’t have changed because the SNP and Scottish Government position is exactly the same as it was on day one of this Bill.”
Mr Mundell said that while it was “unfortunate” there had been limited time for debate, the issues had been “well aired” in both Holyrood and Westminster.
He blamed Labour for the lack of debating time, saying there would have been “much, much more time” if Jeremy Corbyn’s party had not pushed for so many votes to be held.
Mr Blackford hit back at the Scottish secretary, saying he “should be there to defend Scotland’s interests and he has sat back and did nothing to defend the interests of the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish people, he should be utterly ashamed of himself”.
The SNP MP told the same programme: “He ought to resign and the fact we have seen powers taken from the Scottish Parliament and our elected representatives have not been able to debate this is an utter, utter disgrace.”
The Scottish Parliament has already voted against giving its formal consent to the Withdrawal Bill, with SNP, Labour, Green and Lib Dem MSPs united in this stance.
Mr Blackford said: “We’re in new territory, we had the ludicrous situation yesterday where the House of Commons has voted through a power grab against the Scottish Parliament, and let’s remind ourselves that the Scottish Parliament voted overwhelmingly not to give consent to the Withdrawal Bill because we could not consent to a situation that for the first time since devolution was ushered in, Westminster in effect was taking back control over devolved matters.”
He insisted what had happened in the Commons was a “democratic outrage”, adding: “Without debate, without the voices of Scottish MPs being heard, the government pushed through these amendments to rip out the powers from the Scottish Parliament.
“I think the people of Scotland have to reflect on what has happened here – a Conservative government has stripped powers from the Scottish Parliament and is not prepared to give us the opportunity to debate this.”
Mike Russell, the Scottish Government’s Brexit minister, branded the UK Government a “travesty and a disgrace”, asking “How can any meaningful negotiation take place after that?”
He warned: “We need to – and we will – respond intelligently and forcefully.”
Labour MP Ian Murray blamed the government for the lack of debating time, saying UK ministers could have ensured votes did not take away from the time available for members to speak.
He said: “What they did was put a programme motion in place to try and force the opposition parties not to vote and I’m not sure that’s very democratic.
“That took up time and therefore was eating into the time not just to talk about Scottish devolution but also affected Wales and the border in Northern Ireland.”