UK Ministers 'Not Interested' In Views Of Scottish Government - Mike Russell

19 November 2018, 06:42

EU Brexit

The UK government is not interested in the views of the Scottish Government or Parliament, according to Scotland's Constitutional Relations Secretary.

Speaking before a meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee in London Mike Russell also said he had "little confidence" that UK ministers were "interested in serious talks".

On Thursday the First Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones and Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wrote a joint letter to the Prime Minister calling for an urgent meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee.

In it they criticised a "lack of meaningful engagement" with the devolved administrations over the Brexit deal.

Mr Russell said: "It has been abundantly clear throughout this disastrous Brexit process that the UK Government has refused to even pay lip service to the interests of Scotland and is not interested in the views of the Scottish Government or Parliament.

"The UK Government seems determined to plough on with a plan that will cost jobs, hit living standards and make it harder to attract and retain the staff we need for our NHS.

"We had no opportunity to change the Withdrawal Agreement, or indeed the UK Government's White Paper or the letter that triggered the Article 50 exit process before they were published."

He added: "While we will be impressing on the UK Government again today the need for Scotland and the UK to stay in the Customs Union and Single Market, which is eight times the size of the UK alone, I now have little confidence at all that UK ministers are interested in serious talks.

"This week therefore while the Tories escalate their civil war, we will step up our efforts to work constructively with others to bring about an outcome that will minimise the damage of leaving the EU and protect jobs and living standards as much as possible.

"It seems clear the UK Government's deal will be defeated in the House of Commons and therefore we will do everything in power to ensure a common-sense alternative is in place."

However, last week Cabinet Office minister David Lidington said he hoped political differences could be put aside to support a package he believes delivers for jobs and investment.

Mr Lidington met with members of the financial sector in Edinburgh on Friday, but he said a request for talks with Scottish ministers had been declined.

Speaking ahead of Monday's meeting he said: "We have made decisive progress over the past week in agreeing the terms for the UK's orderly exit from the European Union. The deal that is now on the table is the best possible Brexit deal for all parts of the UK.

"It is a deal that supports jobs and investment and allows key sectors across the UK to seize new opportunities.

"We are close to a Brexit deal that takes back control of our borders, our laws and our money while protecting jobs, security and the integrity of our United Kingdom.

"Businesses across the UK are coming out in support of getting this deal finalised. I got that message loud and clear when I was in Scotland and Wales on Friday.

"Politicians in all parties will have a very important decision to make when this deal is voted on in Parliament. They must all weigh heavily the risks of opposing a deal that delivers the clarity and certainty that companies in all parts of the UK are calling out for.

"I hope we can get to a point where the devolved governments in the UK will be able to support any final agreement the UK reaches with the 27 EU Member states.

"We will continue to work closely with the Scottish and Welsh governments and the Northern Ireland Civil Service with that objective in mind."

On Sunday, Ms Sturgeon said SNP MPs would vote against the Prime Minister's EU withdrawal plan.

She told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show the draft agreement lacked clarity on the UK's future relationship with the EU, and the Commons was going to be asked to endorse a "blindfold Brexit".