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Devolution Settlement

Volume 720: debated on Wednesday 12 October 2022

5. Whether he has had recent discussions with Cabinet colleagues on amending the devolution settlement with Scotland. (901584)

7. Whether he has had recent discussions with Cabinet colleagues on amending the devolution settlement with Scotland. (901586)

The Scottish Parliament is one of the most powerful devolved Parliaments in the world and we believe that the devolution settlement strikes the right balance. We continue to work collaboratively with the Scottish Government to implement the Scotland Act 2016. This includes passing secondary legislation to deliver the extensive welfare and tax powers granted by the Act.

The vast majority of people in Scotland support the continued existence of the Scottish Government. Despite the settled will of the Scottish people for greater autonomy and self-rule, some senior Conservatives—there are Secretaries of State among them—are becoming even louder in their calls for the UK Government to claw back powers from the devolved Assemblies. Will the Secretary of State today commit before the House that the UK Government will not under any circumstances attempt to revoke powers devolved to the Scottish Government?

Absolutely. In fact, since we left the European Union, we have given more powers to the Scottish Parliament. Actually, whenever asked, not a single Member of the Scottish National party has come up with one power that has been taken away. It is quite the contrary. We have given more powers and will continue to do that, because, let us be clear, we are the party that is strengthening devolution and the SNP wants to destroy devolution.

I believe that the EU forecasts that the Irish economy will grow by more than 5% in 2022, showing the real potential for growth that exists for smaller nations that are part of the EU. Meanwhile, on the back of the UK Government’s disastrous fiscal statement, mortgage payments for many Scots are rising dramatically and people will struggle to keep a roof over their heads, let alone to feed and keep themselves warm.

Today, the Office for National Statistics tells us that there was a slump of 0.3% in GDP in August in the UK, before that disastrous event. Why will the Secretary of State and his Cabinet colleagues not accept that their fiddling with devolution while the UK economy burns will never be enough to protect the Scottish people he supposedly represents and accept that an independence referendum has to happen so that the Scottish people can protect themselves?

You will not be surprised to hear, Mr Speaker, that I think that that is absolute nonsense. This is not the time. A vast majority of Scots do not believe that now is the time for an independence referendum and that is very clear. The constitution is reserved to Westminster—that is in the process of going through the Supreme Court to be determined now. To me it is very clear that the people of Scotland want this Government to get on. The support we gave during covid, with 900,000 jobs furloughed, the support we have given to households and businesses for their energy costs and our helping to grow the Scottish economy through freeports and investment zones: that is what the people of Scotland want.

Devolution is about Scotland’s two Governments working together and we have seen the success of that with city and region growth deals and with the progress towards freeports. Does the Secretary of State agree with me that language is also really important? When the First Minister said that she “detests the Tories”, she was insulting—[Interruption.] Cheers are coming from the SNP. She is insulting hundreds of thousands of Scottish Conservative voters when she should be representing the whole of Scotland as First Minister.

Of course I agree with my hon. Friend. Language is terribly important in politics. We saw the desperate death of David Amess and others before him, and people cannot incite people using words such as “detest”, which, as can be seen in the dictionary, is another word for hate. The irony is that the Scottish Government are bringing forward a hate Bill yet we have language such as “detest”. My hon. Friend is absolutely right to call it out.