Theresa May is blocking agreement on post-Brexit devolution says Ian Blackford, as the Prime Minister prepares to visit Scotland as part of a UK tour to mark one year until Brexit.
The UK government has been at an impasse with devolved administrations for months over the EU Withdrawal Bill, with Scottish and Welsh Ministers saying they cannot give consent for a “naked power grab”.
The row centres on Clause 11 of the Bill, which deals with whether powers brought back from Brussels should go straight to Holyrood and Cardiff Bay or to Westminster. UK Ministers still want 24 powers, including over farming, fishing and the environment, to be handed to Westminster on Brexit Day, so Scottish and Welsh governments have rushed through separate Continuity Bills to bring EU laws into the domestic statute books in the event no agreement can be reached before the UK leaves the EU.
Now SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford has pinned the blame for the lack of movement on the Prime Minister, who he said “fails to understand” the principles behind the devolution settlement.
“It’s coming up to a year to Brexit and we still don’t have a resolution,” the Ross, Skye and Lochaber MP said. “I don’t know what the prime minister thinks she’s getting closer and closer to, but it isn’t the Scottish Government.
“It is the prime minister who is the block. Ultimately it is the prime minister who has authority over these matters, so it is the prime minister who is driving this – there is absolutely no doubt about that whatsoever.
“To be respectful to David Lidington I think he does understand the principle of devolution but the prime minister has got to show that understanding as well. The current situation shows a lack of full appreciation of the devolution settlement as is.
“We will get round the table and get a solution to this – the first minister, Michael Russell, John Swinnney, we all want a resolution to this and we will work with the government to achieve that.”
The prime minister will visit each of the four UK nations today, starting with textile workers at a factory in Ayrshire, before visiting Newcastle, Belfast, Barry and London.
Speaking ahead of the visit, Mrs May stood by her stance in the Brexit negotiations with devolved administrations, saying she had a duty to protect the integrity of the UK.
She said: “Each of the devolved nations will see an increase in their decision-making powers. Make no mistake, this government is absolutely committed to the devolution settlements as we have demonstrated beyond question with landmark pieces of legislation over the last few years.
“But as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, I have an absolute responsibility to protect the integrity of the United Kingdom as a whole. That means ensuring that no new barriers are created within our common domestic market and that the UK is able to meet its international obligations in the future.
“No Prime Minister could leave these things to chance, because they are absolutely crucial to our success as a country in the future.”
A Downing Street spokesman said: “Our focus continues to be on finding an agreed way forward with the devolved administrations.
“We’ve always been clear the vast majority of returning EU powers will transfer directly to Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast.
“While we have not yet reached agreement, discussions will continue and we are keen to maintain our engagement.”