26 September 2017

Twenty Years of Real Progress under Threat

Last week marked the 20th year mark of Scotland’s devolution referendum.

This week saw the UK Government release a list of the 111 powers being returned from Brussels and denied to Holyrood by them as a result of the EU Withdrawal Bill.

The powers denied range from agriculture to regulation of fracking.

The denial of these powers isn’t a positive sign for devolution or for Scotland’s economy. We continue to see how the UK Government sees Scottish interests – namely that they are unimportant.

These powers affect all aspects of Scotland but critically they heavily influence our economy. Scottish interests should be dictated by people living and working here, by the people elected in this country – who better to represent Scottish interests than the people themselves?

It appears that the UK Government is asking for Scotland to trust them to protect Scotland’s interests despite having a track record of ignoring them.

Simply consider the fact that the UK Government has kept the Scottish Government in the dark since the beginning of the process of exiting the European Union. The Fraser Allander Institute warns that leaving the EU is the “greatest cloud on the immediate horizon”. It continues to be a problem because the UK Government failed to work with the Scottish Government and refuses to keep Scotland in the loop.

But I can be more specific than that. Take agriculture, recently the UK was awarded the sum of £190 million for what is called a convergence uplift for farming.

The UK qualified for the increased funding because the UK-wide average was low.

The reason the UK was below that threshold was because of Scotland’s average particularly was well below the threshold.

However, the UK Government has decided that instead of investing the money in Scotland – they spread the funding to areas that already had a sufficiently high level of funding across the UK. The result is that by 2019 Scotland will have the lowest average rate of per hectare funding compared to any country within the EU. The Scottish Government’s response through Fergus Ewing, was this, “that money is due to Scottish hill farmers. That money was taken by the UK Government. It is Scotland’s money and we want it back.”

One would expect that a situation like this is fairly clear cut. The money was meant for Scottish farmers and it should go to Scottish farmers. The UK Government has yet to receive the message. In fact, Michael Gove has said that, “The money has been baked into the current system”. £160 million pounds taken from Scottish farmers and he thinks he can brush it under the rug with a cooking metaphor – Not good enough.

If this is the kind of behaviour we can expect from Westminster then it is critical that powers returning from Brussels come back to Scotland. If we fail to ensure that outcome, I fear we will be seeing much more of this for Scotland. That’s an outcome that doesn’t favour anyone living here.

Stewart Stevenson
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