Michael Gove attacks Sturgeon’s party for ‘taking power away from councils’

Jacob Rees-Mogg shuts down SNP’s Pete Wishart

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Facing questions on the Internal Market Act in the House of Commons, the Cabinet Minister insisted that he would “never ride roughshod” over the Scottish Government. He added that it is the SNP Government, not Whitehall, which is taking power from where it should not.

The Internal Market Act forms part of Boris Johnson’s replacement of EU funding.

It will allow Scottish council projects to receive funding directly from the Whitehall without reference to the devolved Scottish Government.

Patricia Gibson, an MP and SNP communities spokesperson, said the Act has “fundamentally undermined the devolution settlement and was explicitly rejected in Holyrood”.

But Mr Gove insisted there is no foul play involved, turning the blame back to the Scottish Government.

“Of course, I won’t interfere in the devolution settlement, but there is a contrast between our approach where we devolve more power to local government in England, and the approach of the current Scottish Government which is to take power away from Scottish councils.”

Meghan Gallacher, a Scottish Tory MSP, took to Twitter to say that “Michael Gove is 100% right”.

“The SNP have cut Council budgets and removed decision making by ring-fencing.”

Mr Gove also claimed that a number of SNP MPs have backed bids for the allocation of funds under the Internal Market Act, “including SNP councils as well”.

“It’s great to have on the ground locally elected representatives, supporting the financial assistance power, the Internal Market Bill and the vital importance of making sure we all work together,” he added.

A number of Scottish councils have already placed bids for a share of the £4.8 billion fund, which is intended to “improve everyday life” across the UK.

Attempting to smooth over divisions between Whitehall and SNP officials, as well as the leaders of Wales and Northern Ireland, Mr Gove joked that meetings between these groups are “like a nest of singing birds”.

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“They are festivals of cordiality, and I recognise that the SNP needs to keep its activist base happy with the recitation of these grievances, but the reality is that those who serve in the Scottish Government know that we in the UK Government are their friends and partners, and Scotland has no better friend than the other citizens of the United Kingdom.”

However cordial these leaders are behind closed doors, some wish only to draw attention to the hostilities in public.

Talking ahead of the COP26 climate conference, SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon chose to push her own independence agenda and talk about Scotland’s individual climate targets rather than talk about the UK as a whole.

Lamenting the fact that Scotland will be represented by Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the conference, rather than herself, she said: “We are not an independent state, not yet.”

But Scottish Tory leader was quick to point out Ms Sturgeon’s motives.

“Nicola Sturgeon was supposed to be speaking about climate change but once again, she made it mostly about the constitution,” he said.

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