Alister Jack: UK Government will no longer ‘fade into background’ in Scotland
The Scottish Secretary claimed the SNP is seeking to ‘undermine’ the devolution settlement.
The era of allowing the UK Government’s role in Scotland to “fade into the background” is over, the Scottish Secretary has said.
Alister Jack was speaking at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, where he accused the SNP of seeking to “undermine” the devolution settlement.
He said: “We recognised some time ago we had to change the damaging old philosophy of devolve and forget, leaving too much in the hands of the devolved administration in Holyrood and allowing the role of the UK Government to fade into the background.
“Well, today I can announce the era of devolve and forget is well and truly over.
“It is dead. It is finished. And I promise you, it is not coming back under my watch.
“On scores of projects we are now working directly with local councils and other responsible delivery partners. And I call that real devolution.”
He urged the Scottish Government to work constructively with the UK administration, saying that devolution works when Holyrood and Westminster are “respecting each other’s roles, and working together when we can”.
He added: “Unfortunately, my view is not shared by the nationalists.
“Time and time again they have sought to undermine the devolution settlement in order to provoke unnecessary disagreement between the two governments.”
His speech comes after recent clashes between the two governments led to court action.
This included the Scottish Government’s legal challenge against a decision by UK ministers to block controversial gender reform legislation.
The challenge, heard at Scotland’s highest court earlier this month, came after Mr Jack utilised never-before-used powers under the Scotland Act – the legislation that established the Scottish Parliament – to halt the gender laws which sought to simplify the process for trans people to self-identify and obtain a gender recognition certificate.
Lady Haldane, the judge who presided over the case at the Court of Session in Edinburgh, has said a judgment could take some time.
Last November, the UK Supreme Court ruled the Scottish Parliament did not have the powers to hold a second independence referendum without the consent of Westminster.
“When they took Nicola Sturgeon’s referendum Bill to the Supreme Court, they wasted taxpayers’ money, confirming what everyone knew already: the constitution and the Union are matters reserved to Westminster.
“When they tried to introduce a new system of self-ID for trans people – their Gender Recognition Reform Bill – they ignored the harmful impact on safeguards for women and girls in existing reserved legislation.
“And when they tried to bring in a bottle deposit return scheme, they failed to consider the impact of cross-border trade.
“In each case I felt it was my duty as Secretary of State for Scotland to step in.
“And I will not stand by and I will not allow nationalist ministers to undermine or abuse the devolution settlement for their own political ends. Not now, not ever.”
SNP depute leader Keith Brown said: “Alister Jack has some brass neck.
“As Secretary of State for Scotland, he should be going out of his way to enable the smooth running of devolution, but instead he seems to be doing everything he can to sabotage it.”