Relations between Holyrood and Westminster at ‘lowest ebb’

PUBLISHED: 13:18 08 January 2020 | UPDATED: 13:18 08 January 2020

Pro-European protestors outside the Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh. Photograph: Jane Barlow/PA.

Pro-European protestors outside the Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh. Photograph: Jane Barlow/PA.

PA Archive/PA Images

The relationship between Holyrood and Westminster is at a ‘low ebb’ and has deteriorated since Boris Johnson’s election victory, a Scottish minister has said.

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Mike Russell claimed the UK government had shown devolved nations 'scant - if any - respect' and predicted it will ignore the Scottish parliament's views on the Brexit deal.

With MSPs likely to withhold consent for Johnson's Withdrawal Agreement in a vote, Russell told the Scottish parliament's Constitution Committee it was a "thoroughly bad Bill that prefaces a thoroughly bad Brexit".

"The bill is not one that the Scottish people should accept and it is therefore not one that the Scottish parliament should accept," he said.

Revealing the state of relations between the two governments ahead of a Joint Ministerial Committee, Russell said: "There has been scant, if any, respect for the devolved administrations, very little, if any, for the devolved competencies and a view that when push comes to shove the UK government can do precisely what it wishes to do."

He ascribed some of the blame to the "considerable nervousness within the UK's civil service about what is taking place and how it's taking place" and said: "It's fair to say that normal relationships which I've been used to as a minister these last 12 years are at a low ebb from officials as well as ministers.

The Withdrawal Agreement would give Westminster powers over devolved areas but the Scottish government said they only learned of the bill's details the day before its publication.

Addressing comments from the UK government thanking Holyrood for its input to the bill, Russell said: "They say that they work with the devolved administrations as if everything was wonderful - it isn't wonderful.

"It's an extraordinarily difficult set of relations that have got even worse since the Johnson government got elected."

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