Tories returning to ‘Project Fear’ to defend assault on devolution, the SNP has said

09/03/2018
Caitlin Logan

UK Government names the 24 devolved areas it plans to control after Brexit

THE TORY Government has been accused by the SNP of reverting to the ‘Project Fear’ tactics of the 2014 independence referendum in its explanations for why devolved powers must return to Westminster after leaving the EU.

The UK Government published a list on Friday of 24 devolved areas which it wants to see temporarily returned to Westminster, sidestepping the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish administrations.

The policy areas affected largely fall under the categories of agriculture, food and nutrition regulations, animal health and welfare, environmental quality in food production, fisheries management, and public procurement.

Whilst insisting that most powers in devolved areas would be returning to their respective governments, Cabinet Office minister David Lidington said these 24 areas would need to return to the UK Government “while we work out a new UK approach”.

READ MORE: In defence of devolution: Scottish Parliament approves Continuity Bill as emergency legislation

Lidington advised BBC Scotland that the reason for this was to prevent job losses and increased costs to consumers. He said: “What will not help either customers or producers is to have different sets of food labelling or food hygiene or safety regulations in different parts of the UK.

“All that does is add to costs, loss of jobs amongst producers and it leads to less choice, probably a higher price for consumers.

“The same applies with manufacturers, if you’re a paint manufacturer in Wales you’ve got to stick to some chemical standards in producing your paint, but you want those to be the same as the paint standards in Scotland or Northern Ireland because you are a customer there.

“It just makes sense that we do so much trade in internal borders in the UK that we have a set of common sense rules agreed.”

The announcement comes as the Scottish and Welsh Governments press forward with their own continuity bills to prepare for a scenario where their respective parliaments refuse consent to the UK Government’s EU withdrawal legislation.

Lidington’s remarks have been condemned by the SNP as an attack on the devolution settlement agreed in 1997 and as reminiscent of claims by the Better Together campaign that food prices would skyrocket if Scotland were to become independent.

SNP MSP Ash Denham said the Tories had “resorted to the disgraceful scaremongering tactics we saw in 2014 to try and justify a systematic erosion of Holyrood’s powers”.

“The very foundations of devolution are under attack from the Tories – a party that has never won a democratic mandate in Scotland in over 60 years.” SNP MSP Ash Denham

However, Denham said: “The fact is this: the Tories own chaotic Brexit is jacking up the price on food and hammering Scottish households. A power grab won’t prevent that – it will exacerbate the problem.

“We need all the current powers at Holyrood and more to protect Scotland from the economic harm that the Tories own analysis shows is heading our way.”

She continued: “What’s crystal clear today is that our Scottish Parliament, and the very foundations of devolution, are under attack from the Tories – a party that has never won a democratic mandate in Scotland in over 60 years.

“They’ve laid out in black and white what they’re itching to get their hands on – powers over farming, fisheries, procurement policy that could open up the NHS to American health firms, state aid, GM crops, the environment, food standards and much more.

“After all their promises to respect Scotland four years ago it is clear the Tories still think they can do anything to Scotland and get away with it.”

The full list of powers to be temporarily returned to Westminster published by the UK Government can be found here.

Picture courtesy of Welsh Photographs

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