Trade minister Ian McKee wrote to Jacob Rees-Mogg, minister of state for Brexit opportunities and government efficiency, outlining his concerns © Photo by Phil Noble - WPA Pool/Getty Images
Trade minister Ian McKee wrote to Jacob Rees-Mogg, minister of state for Brexit opportunities and government efficiency, outlining his concerns © Photo by Phil Noble - WPA Pool/Getty Images

UK Procurement Bill provokes row with Scottish Government

The UK Procurement Bill has provoked a row with the Scottish Government amid claims it “undermines devolution”.

SNP trade minister Ivan McKee said the bill “would currently allow UK ministers to legislate in matters that are devolved to the Scottish Parliament”.

McKee said it was “deeply disappointing” the Scottish Government was not consulted before the bill was presented in the House of Lords in May and he urged MSPs not to support the legislation when it comes before the Scottish Parliament.

He said the bill “gives UK ministers powers to amend devolved Scottish procurement legislation without the consent of the Scottish Parliament in relation to cross-border agreements and future international agreements”.

McKee also criticised the Trade (Australia and New Zealand) Bill, which includes procurement aspects, on similar grounds.

He said: “Once again we were not consulted by the UK government before the introduction of proposed legislation that as currently drafted, bypasses the Scottish Parliament and undermines Scotland’s powers. That is deeply disappointing, but sadly no longer surprising.

“Scottish ministers cannot recommend consent for these two bills as they disregard the role of the Scottish Parliament and government – a role enshrined in statute in the devolution settlement – but we have made it clear to UK ministers that we are prepared to work with them to resolve these issues urgently. 

“The UK government’s approach continues to undermine devolution, to renege on promises made ahead of the EU referendum and puts at risk Scotland’s economic interests and needs.”

McKee has written to Jacob Rees-Mogg, UK minister of state for Brexit opportunities and government efficiency, outlining his concerns. “​​I hope you might recognise that adopting a different approach to engagement and to drafting important legislation like this that respects and provides for devolved competences might lead to a different outcome with regard to recommendations relating to consent,” he said.

Two Legislative Consent Memoranda have been issued recommending MSPs reject the bills.

The Procurement Bill aims to simplify over 300 EU regulations, increase transparency, and boost spending with SMEs.

A UK government spokesperson said it would follow the normal protocols with regards to UK legislation and its impact on devolved authorities.

“Our trade and procurement bills are an important part of the UK making the most of the opportunities of being outside the EU,” they said.

“People across Scotland rightly want and expect to see both of their governments working together with a relentless focus on the issues that matter to them, their families and communities. We continue to follow the Sewel Convention and are seeking Legislative Consent Motions in the usual way.”

Concerning the trade bill, the spokesperson said: “We consulted and engaged with the Scottish Government throughout negotiations on our deal with Australia, which is projected to boost Scotland’s economy by £120m  and deliver for businesses and consumers in every part of the UK.”

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