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It comes after the Scottish government led by Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP confirmed it will recommend Holyrood refuse consent for the new UK legislation on post-Brexit trading arrangements. Michael Russell, Scotland’s Constitution Secretary said it was a “defining moment” in the relationship between the SNP government in Edinburgh and Boris Johnson’s Conservative administration in London.
However, during Holyrood’s Constitution and Finance Committee today, Mr Gove told MSPs criticisms of the Bill were just “stories to scare children at bedtime”.
Mr Russell claimed the proposed legislation, which forms part of Boris Johnson’s Brexit masterplan, would be a “power-grab” stressing that the “Bill opens the door to a post-Brexit race to the bottom”.
It would also give Westminster a veto on any future legislation passed by Holyrood which could affect the UK internal market after January 1.
However Cabinet Office Minister Mr Gove has hit back saying the Bill would result in a “net accretion of powers to the Scottish Parliament”, leaving Holyrood “stronger within the framework of the UK”.
Speaking during the Committee, he made clear the British Government had been a “world leader” in environmental and animal standards.
He said: “The idea the UK Government would compromise our high animal welfare standards is for the birds.
“It may be a lurid fantasy for some that it’s the secret agenda of the UK Government to use this as a Trojan horse to privatise the NHS, but that’s one of the most absurd, ludicrous and irrational fantasies I’ve heard in my political lifetime. The NHS is not for sale under any circumstances.
“There are some people who are anxious to spread myths about the UK Government, but if you look at the evidence you will see the way we have supported the NHS and invested in the NHS in an unprecedented way.
“The whole thing is ludicrous.”
However, Scottish government officials have tonight dismissed Mr Gove’s comments with one telling Express.co.uk: “Mr Gove’s comments are incorrect and inaccurate.
“Westminster has accepted the Bill will break international law and today Mr Gove has clearly shown that he doesn’t care about input from devolved nations.”
Mr Russell submitted a legislative consent motion to the Scottish Parliament recommending that Holyrood not give legal permission for the Bill to be passed.
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It states the Bill “undermines” the existing devolution set up and “explicitly gives UK ministers wide new powers in currently devolved areas of economic support and allows for breaches of international law”.
Consequently, it concluded: “The Scottish Government cannot, therefore, recommend support for this Bill.”
The Motion forms part of the Sewel Convention which is an understanding that the UK Parliament will not normally pass Bills that contain relevant provisions affecting devolution without first obtaining the consent of the Scottish Parliament.
The consent itself is given through a motion which is taken in the Chamber but the detailed scrutiny is undertaken by a Scottish Parliament committee on the basis of a memorandum.
However, the consent motion is non-binding on Westminster and the UK Government can pass through any laws it wishes.
SNP MSP George Adam asked whether Scottish Government ministers would be breaching their ministerial code in terms of breaking international law if they were to approve the legislative consent motion.
Despite Mr Gove denying this, Mr Adam claimed it would.
A UK Government spokesman, added: “The recommendation from the devolved administration in Scotland is disappointing.
“This Bill will protect Scottish businesses and jobs by ensuring trade can continue between different parts of the UK. More than 60 percent of Scottish exports go to England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
“It is also a hugely significant act of devolution and will hand vast powers from Brussels back to Holyrood.
“We urge the Scottish Parliament to support this vital Bill.”
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