Friday, 3 Feb 2023

SNP deputy whinges Brexit means Scotland has lost control

Nicola Sturgeon asked why Scotland should re-join single market

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The Deputy Leader of the SNP suggested that Brexit resulted in Scotland losing control over its policy direction, but Labour MP Clive Betts pointed out that this might not be the case. Mr Betts – chair of the Levelling Up Select Committee – noted that the EU “effectively determined the projects that were going to be funded” in Scotland before Brexit was enacted, adding: “It wasn’t simply left to the Scottish government to be an equal partner in deciding those”.

SNP Deputy Leader John Swinney claimed that, after the decision to leave the EU, the UK Government was able to “intervene in areas where ordinarily an approach could have been taken in Scotland for us to weave together all of those areas of policy and take decisions accordingly”.

He claimed this has added “an element of confusion” because “organisations in Scotland who were looking to the Scottish Government for coherent policy-making on a particular area now have to look at the Scottish government and then have to look at the UK Government for the potential availability of certain funds”.

But Mr Betts questioned Mr Swinney’s criticism, claiming that it “wasn’t quite as simple as sitting down and agreeing everything”.

He added: “The EU effectively determined the projects that were going to be funded. It wasn’t simply left to the Scottish government to be an equal partner in deciding those.”

Mr Swinney admitted that Scotland would have to ensure projects “were able to fit into the policy criteria of the particular European Union programmes”.

Mr Betts pressed the point, saying: “I’m just making the point that the objectives and the policies were objectively laid down for you”.

He added: “It wasn’t quite as different under the EU arrangements in terms of joint working”.

“I would accept that point”, Mr Swinney conceded, but he maintained that the pre-Brexit system brought more “policy coherence”.

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has said Scotland would rejoin the EU were it to become independent, a position which was outlined in her latest independence paper.

Speaking about the paper, the Scottish First Minister said that the UK Government “cannot be trusted to act in Scotland’s interests”.

She said “independence is now essential” in order to “prevent further economic damage being inflicted by Westminster Governments”.

Ms Sturgeon claimed that Brexit has made the UK even more “ill-equipped to cope with events like the cost of living crisis”.

Ahead of the speech, the First Minister said Scotland had an “abundance of skilled people, innovative businesses, and natural resources”.

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The SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford previously described the UK’s decision to turn away from the EU as “bonkers”, arguing that UK is “desperate” to get back to the EU.

But Scottish economist Tony Mackay said it was “extremely doubtful” that there would be enough oil and gas in the North Sea to finance the SNP’s plans for rejoining the bloc.

Meanwhile, Liz Smith, the Scottish Conservative’s finance spokesman, said the SNP had “never been able to make a convincing economic case for independence, and this paper doesn’t change that”.

She said: “Nationalists are consistently unable to address the big questions that the public want answered about independence – on currency, on pensions and about how a hard border would impact our trade with the rest of the UK.”

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