American health giants could “force their way” into Scotland’s NHS under controversial plans being debated at Westminster, it has been claimed.
Constitution secretary Mike Russell warned the Internal Market Bill opens the way for “all public services” in Scotland to be put out to tender.
His comments came as the Bill, which was rubber stamped by MPs at the second reading last night, continued its passage through the Commons.
Mr Russell, appearing before the Brexit committee, said the Bill “undercuts the existing devolution settlement” and gives UK ministers the power to override the Scottish Parliament in areas such as food standards and healthcare.
“This is an attempt, the first attempt and a very serious attempt, to rollback on devolution”, he said.
“It will create the circumstances where it is impossible for any of the devolved administrations to operate in the way intended.”
He added: “I have concern for all public services because I believe that all public services could be opened up to a variety of tenders and influences which the current Scottish Government would not wish.
“For example, an American health company that wished to operate in Scotland in a certain way, and was not able to do so under current regulation could successfully go to law under this bill, and force its way in.
This is an attempt, the first attempt and a very serious attempt, to rollback on devolution.”
“That is a real concern, and that will apply not just to the National Health Service but every area of public regulation or contract.”
Mr Russell went on to claim there had been very little consultation about the measures proposed in the Bill.
“The quality of dialogue has been poor throughout”, he said.
“But it certainly has got significantly worse since Boris Johnson became prime minister.
“There is in my view, a hostility towards devolution in the current government.”
Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove, responding to similar claims in the Commons last night, said the Bill strengthens the union and respects devolution.
He told the Commons: “What this Bill is not is a threat to devolution or the NHS.
“If you look at the schedule to the Bill, you’ll see that healthcare services are excluded.
“The Bill strengthens the union, but also respects devolution.”