SNP accuse Mundell of stabbing Scottish Parliament in back over Brexit

19 June 2018, 06:37

EU Brexit

David Mundell was accused of playing with his iPhone while "stabbing the Scottish Parliament in the back" over Brexit in a stormy emergency devolution debate.

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford urged the Scottish Secretary to stand up and speak in the Commons, having already insisted he was "unfit" for the job and has "no credibility".

Mr Blackford added: "There is no coming back from this.

"He must resign or the Prime Minister must sack him."

He warned the Government's approach to Scotland over the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, which transfers EU law into UK law, was a return to the "days of the poll tax" under Margaret Thatcher.

But Mr Mundell said Mr Blackford's "performance" might appeal to core SNP voters, adding: "It doesn't impress Scotland."

Only about 19 minutes were left for debate on devolution changes linked to the Bill when MPs last week considered amendments made by the House of Lords.

Given that the Scottish Parliament has not granted a legislative consent motion for the key Brexit legislation, the SNP has claimed Westminster is launching a "power grab" by ignoring the Sewel convention.

This is the precedent that Westminster must have the consent of Holyrood to legislate on devolved matters.

The UK Government has previously said the Bill delivers on its pledge to deliver "significant further powers" to the Scottish Parliament, and it would seek consent unless there are "not normal circumstances applying" - describing Brexit as such an exception.

Mr Blackford told the Commons: "I regret the fact the Secretary of State for Scotland is not down to speak tonight.

"I'm going to give him another opportunity - stand up and defend the indefensible.

"He can't. He's sitting there playing with his iPhone - playing with his iPhone and stabbing the Scottish Parliament in the back."

Mr Mundell was cheered as he stood up and moved to the despatch box, telling the Sewel convention debate: "This speech by (Mr Blackford) is not worthy of a response from me."

He added: "He calls for respect, but focuses entirely on the personal in his comments.

"This may be a performance for his colleagues, it may be a performance for his core voters, it doesn't impress Scotland."

Mr Blackford later said there were only "days left to save Scotland's devolved settlement" and encouraged Theresa May to bring forward emergency legislation to remove parts of the Bill to ensure it matches what the Scottish Parliament voted for.

He said: "That is the only way the UK Government can undo the damage it has caused, and the only way the Tories can show the people of Scotland that their Scottish Parliament's rights are recognised and respected.

"That is the only way we can save devolution in Scotland."

Scottish Tory MPs later weighed in to offer support to the Government and rounded on the SNP - with one describing the party as a "fifth column".

Gordon MP Colin Clark said: "The SNP are acting as a fifth column, industry can now see Holyrood cannot be trusted to represent them, jobs will be undermined."

Mr Clark told MPs that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was using the EU (Withdrawal) Bill to "precipitate independence referendum two".

He said: "It's the last chance saloon, the SNP have planned all along to try and wreck the Bill."

Tory MP Ross Thomson (Aberdeen South) followed by criticising the SNP for their heated rhetoric, telling MPs that some of his staff had been targeted as a result.

He concluded by calling for the Scottish government's Brexit minister Mike Russell to step down, and said: "There are two governments, two people worked on this and in fact the person who refused agreement, couldn't reach agreement, is Mike Russell.

"Perhaps he should consider his position."

For Labour, shadow Scottish secretary Leslie Laird called Mr Mundell the "invisible man in the Cabinet" and suggested he should be sacked if there was no agreement between the UK and Scottish governments.

Cabinet Office minister David Lidington, replying for the Government, said a "good, balanced compromise package" was available.

He added: "I think what the people in all parts of the UK now expect is that their different governments and different legislatures work together constructively to represent them."

The motion - that the Commons has considered the Sewel convention - was approved by 88 votes to 51, majority 37.