The impact of the UK Tory Government’s proposed internal market on Scotland’s trade, economy, businesses, employment and people will be momentous.
A coalition of 40 Scottish environment charities warned that it could end up causing significant harm to Scotland’s wildlife, landscape and food standards, given it’ aimed both at removing regulation and forcing all four UK nations to adopt the same standards, irrespective of each nation’s environmental context or needs.
Scotland will have to accept the lowest common denominator, especially when countries negotiating bilateral trade deals with the UK demand lower standards, thereby seriously undermining efforts to combat climate change and biodiversity decline. Charles Dundas, chair of Scottish Environment LINK, said:
“Scotland’s world-renowned natural environment is central to all our lives and we must not allow UK internal market arrangements to put it in jeopardy by dragging standards down.”
Few people are being taken in by Tory assertions and assurances. Folk are not daft; they have long memories and remember that the Tories fought tooth and nail against the very existence of the Scottish Parliament. Few people believe the Tories have any interest other than in tightening London’s grip; they should at least have the honesty and decency to admit it.
The National Farmers Union Scotland (NFUS) expressed its concern saying:
“The proposal presents risks to vital internal UK markets. It is the clear view of NFUS and the other UK farming unions that the proposals pose a significant threat to devolution. We stress the necessity for agricultural support policies to diverge where necessary to reflect different needs and objectives in different parts of the UK. Internal Market proposals limit the devolved administrations’ ability to act if any standards were lowered and give the UK Government a final say in areas of devolved policy, such as agriculture, environment, animal health and welfare.”
The internal market consultation took place over only four weeks in the mid-summer, during the Scottish and Welsh devolved Parliaments’ and Northern Ireland Assembly’s recess. The Minister in charge, Alok Sharma MP, refused to engage or give evidence to Holyrood, which tells us there was no real desire to secure well-considered views. After all, the opinion of Scotland’s Parliament will not actually be considered by the UK Tory Government, will it?
Tory talk of “a power surge” is deliberately misleading. State aid powers will be removed from Scotland and reserved to the UK. This would have left the SNP Government unable to save 350 jobs at Ferguson Marine and 1,700 at Prestwick. It also identifies minimum unit pricing, the smoking ban, animal health and welfare, environmental standards including recycling, food safety procurement and other devolved policy areas as being at risk.
Tories suggest Scotland will receive “a mass of new powers” which, in reality, are already devolved. As for new powers, when council tax benefit was devolved, only 90% of the budget came with it, costing the Scottish Parliament £22 million and local government £17 million each year. Powers on employability were devolved only after a 93% cut to their funding. Tories might be happy with those costly crumbs from the table, but the SNP has higher ambitions for Scotland.
In keeping an eye on the UK Government, the work of the Scottish Parliament and its agencies matters more than ever to the safety, wellbeing and prosperity of Scotland and those who live here.
How the UK Tory Government has treated the devolved nations makes it painfully clear that what is being said by Tories utterly beholden to London and their new king o’er the water, Douglas Ross MP, regarding increasing the Scottish Parliament’s powers, is simply hogwash.