Boris Johnson’s post-Brexit plan for a UK internal market will see Westminster “taking back control from Scotland”, MSPs have heard.
Constitution secretary Mike Russell described plans to replace the EU common framework with a new UK-wide body when the Brexit transition period ends as a “major power grab”.
A new, UK-wide rules framework is needed in order to administer the powers that will return from Brussels at the end of the year.
Many powers are to be directly controlled by the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish administrations, in fields including food labelling, energy efficiency and support for farmers.
However, the UK Government has said the devolved administrations will still have to accept goods and services from other parts of the UK – even if they have set different standards locally – to ensure a level playing field in the “internal market”.
It was revealed last month that if there are disputes between the UK and devolved governments over minimum standards it would be left to the courts to decide.
“I hope there won’t be any disputes, but if there were they would be legal disputes and the correct forum for resolving legal disputes is through the court system,” business minister Lord Callanan told peers.
Mr Russell, appearing before Holyrood’s constitution committee this morning, said: “This proposal is about power, it is designed to extend the power of the UK Government in a number of areas and in those areas there is clear devolved responsibility.
“What the UK Government is endeavouring to do is to take power away from the devolved administrations and concentrate it in its own hands.”
Former welfare minister Angela Constance asked Mr Russell “is it not the case that the UK Government, in taking back control from the EU, are also taking back control from Scotland?”
“Yes, the words of the white paper are clear”, he said.
“Key decision will be put to the UK Parliament for approval, not that key decisions will be agreed by the four administrations together with nobody having veto.
“This is a major power grab”.
He added: “It’s very hard to see how anything can improve.
“I should, however, say that things have got definitely worse, last year with the advent of the Johnson administration, which I think is running a clear and deliberate anti-devolution policy.”
UK ministers have rejected the SNP’s analysis of the internal market proposals, saying they will see “the biggest transfer of powers in the history of devolution”.
Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross said the plan was “vital” and would “protect the UK internal market, and £55 billion of Scotland’s export trade with it”.