Laura Kuenssberg warns 'of frustration' in SNP
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Scotland’s Deputy First Minister John Swinney urged delegates at the SNP’s online conference to “stand up and be counted before it’s too late” to defend devolution. He told members during his virtual speech the UK Government wanted “unfettered Westminster control on Scotland” and accused it of using Brexit to undermine devolution. Nicola Sturgeon’s deputy argued “the only way to keep the gains of devolution is by becoming independent” while also suggesting decisions made at Holyrood “can be routinely undermined at a whim by the Tories”.
Mr Swinney told delegates: “All of us who care so deeply about the Scottish Parliament and its role in Scottish public life need to stand up and be counted before it is too late.
“We are now seeing a concerted attack on our parliament, from the very people who fought tooth and nail against it being established in the first place.
“In a grotesque irony, the Tories are using something that the people of Scotland voted overwhelmingly against – Brexit – to undermine something they voted overwhelmingly for – the Scottish Parliament.
“Through the Internal Market Act, the Tories have given themselves unfettered power to decide the rules of the internal market – and to completely ignore the devolution settlement if they want to.”
Claiming the Prime Minister wishes to reverse devolution, Mr Swinney added: “There will be no sudden big bang moment, Boris Johnson is not going to stand up and announce to the cheering Tory faithful that he is dismantling the devolution settlement – much as I am sure he would like to.
“But make no mistake – piece by piece, devolution is quietly being filleted, hollowed out from the inside by a Tory Party which has always opposed the idea of anything other than unfettered Westminster control on Scotland.
“Much like the climate emergency, which is slowly creeping up on us every single day – we need to issue a code red for devolution.”
But the claims from Mr Swinney were met from a fierce response by Downing Street.
A UK Government spokesman said: “This is simply nonsense.
“The Internal Market Bill ensures that vital trade can continue seamlessly between all four corners of the UK.
“Now more than ever, people in Scotland want to see the UK and Scottish governments working together to protect lives and livelihoods.
“The pandemic, and our collective response – from the furlough scheme to vaccine procurement and the backing of our military personnel – has shown that we are at our strongest when we work together.”
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On Friday, the SNP launched a renewed attack against Mr Johnson at the virtual party conference by insisting he will cave to pressure over Scottish independence.
Depute leader Keith Brown took a huge swipe at the Prime Minister and his UK Government, insisting they know they “can’t stand in the way of the democratic will of Scotland”.
He insisted combining the result of the Scottish election in May with a win at the upcoming local elections will enable his party to “pile the pressure on the UK Government over our legitimate demand for a referendum”.
Mr Brown said: “The Johnsons and the Goves of Westminster know they can’t stand in the way of the democratic will of Scotland. “And what we know is that Boris Johnson always bows to pressure – just look at the scandalous Owen Paterson affair.
“The Prime Minister’s actions speak far louder than words.
“When the Prime Minister had to choose between protecting the integrity of elected office or protecting his friend, he chose to change the rules to protect a colleague.
“And when the pressure came on, he caved in and U-turned again.”
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