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Scotland's democracy ‘under fire’

Politicans warn Westminster's plan for Internal Market Bill is an ‘ideological’ attempt to remove power from Holyrood

TRADE unions and politicians called on the Westminster government today to halt attempts to push through “ideological” measures which would remove devolved powers and limit the possibility of a radical overhaul of Scotland’s economy. 

Members of the trade union and socialist movement have repeatedly raised concerns about the Internal Market Bill, which would see Westminster taking control of key devolved spending powers, as well as state aid.

The Scottish Trades Union Congress and Unite have previously backed concerns raised at Holyrood, warning the Bill would make the principle of fair work, as well as developing new jobs in transport and renewables, harder to achieve. 

Ahead of its annual Congress on Tuesday, the STUC released a statement warning that Westminster’s plans were “a clear attempt to weaken the devolution settlement.”

Socialist campaigners have urged the Tories to reverse plans to remove control over state aid from Scotland, calling the proposals “a straightforward attack on devolution.”

Radical Options for Scotland and Europe (Rose) said these powers were “key to running your own economy,” claiming these concerns are shared by Britain’s other devolved nations. 

Co-secretary Vince Mills told the Star: “That’s going to be a real problem for any progressive government Scotland has, supporting industries in distress or encouraging industries towards a green economy and a green new deal. 

“It’s fairly clear what this Tory government is about, to put the UK in the driving seat. Its idea is for a private entrepreneurial evolution — it wants to take the Scottish government out of the equation.”

Debates and voting on the proposed legislation is also expected to continue in Westminster this week, with further discussion scheduled in the House of Lords tomorrow. 

Labour peer Pauline Bryan said it was “clear” state aid was being withdrawn, despite repeated denials from ministers. 

Ms Bryan said the government should rethink its strategy, bringing four nations together to negotiate on trade deals so they can’t be imposed as a “step towards a federal arrangement.”

She added: “This is about saying they will not allow devolved administrations to develop economic or industrial policies which involve state aid. 

“A green new deal, where you need a degree of state aid to compete, will be outlawed.”

Representatives in Holyrood have also reiterated their own opposition to the moves, following a vote which rejected consent to the plans in the Scottish Parliament last month. 

Scottish Green co-leader Patrick Harvie said: “The Internal Market Bill is a reckless and blinkered attempt to undermine Scotland’s democracy, because it seeks to place a veto over all devolved affairs in the hands of UK government ministers. 

“The STUC is right that it could also kick-start a race to the bottom on employment protection, environmental and food standards. 

“The UK government has not only ignored the concerns of devolved nations and trade unions with this Bill, it has also put the Irish peace process at risk with its threat to break international law.”

Scottish Labour constitution spokesperson Alex Rowley also accused Boris Johnson of “playing fast and loose with the UK’s very existence.”

He added: “The silence of Johnson’s Scottish Tory colleagues has been deafening — and shows that their loyalties are to the survival of their UK leader rather than to their own constituents. 

“However, with US President-elect Joe Biden having criticised Boris Johnson’s approach, there is a golden opportunity to start over and replace this Westminster power grab with an approach based on co-operation between the nations and regions of the UK.”

The Star has approached the Cabinet Office for comment.

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