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Devolved Administrations: Relations with UK Government

Volume 702: debated on Monday 25 October 2021

10. What recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the Government’s relations with the devolved Administrations. (903788)

I thank the Secretary of State for that answer. I tend to disagree, but I will accept it anyway.

The chief of staff to the former Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May), said recently that the democratic mandate for a second Scottish independence referendum was “clear” and apparent. He also said that support for Scottish independence rose from the very moment the right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) became Prime Minister. That is being driven mainly by opposition to the Government’s Brexit policy and the perceived relative handling of the covid-19 pandemic by the UK and Scottish Governments. Would the Secretary of State care to tell the House and the people of Scotland why he thinks continuing to dismiss Scotland’s democratic rights will strengthen the Union?

Scotland’s democratic destiny was asserted in the 2014 referendum, when a majority of people voted to remain in the United Kingdom. The strength of the United Kingdom is visible daily. In just a week’s time, the dear green place that the hon. Gentleman has the honour to represent—Glasgow—will be home to COP26. One of the things about COP26 is that we would not have that global climate change conference in Glasgow if Scotland were not in the United Kingdom. We would not have a billion-pound-a-year Union dividend if Scotland were not in the United Kingdom, and indeed we would not have the hon. Gentleman’s mellifluous tones gracing this House if Scotland were not in the United Kingdom.

This Government are committed to at least one new freeport in Wales. I chair the Anglesey freeport bidding consortium. Can the Secretary of State reassure my Ynys Môn constituents that he is working with the Welsh Government to ensure that there is at least one new freeport in Wales?

Freeports are one of the many advantages that all the nations of the United Kingdom can enjoy as a result of our departure from the European Union. Freeports will allow investment in every part of the United Kingdom, and I am looking forward to working with partners in Wales, and indeed in Scotland and Northern Ireland, to make sure that we can seize the opportunities that Brexit provides for our coastal communities.

I feel I should doff my cap at the munificence of this Parliament towards Scotland.

Devolved Governments are not involved, consulted or considered in trade deals; Scotland is shut out of carbon capture and storage, despite the hot air of Better Together promises; and the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020 undermines the last two decades of the devolution settlement. In what ways does the Secretary of State think that bypassing the democratically elected devolved Parliaments shows that this Union is indeed a partnership of equals?

I meet weekly with First Ministers from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. If the hon. Lady were privileged enough to be able to observe those meetings, she would see that they are like a nest of singing birds. They are festivals of cordiality. I recognise that the SNP needs to keep its activist base happy with the recitation of these grievances, but the reality is that those who serve in the Scottish Government know that we in the UK Government are their friends and partners, and Scotland has no better friends than the other citizens of the United Kingdom.