Alister Jack: ‘No threat’ to devolved power in post-Brexit laws

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Media captionScotland’s constitutional affairs secretary Michael Russell and the Scottish Secretary Alister Jack were add odds over what the proposed changes meant

Claims that Holyrood powers are under threat by post-Brexit legislation are “absolute scaremongering”, the Scottish Secretary has said.

Alister Jack told BBC Scotland plans for a UK “internal market” amounted to a “power surge” and not a “power grab”.

The proposals have been set out in a white paper, with legislation to follow later in the year.

Scottish Constitutional Affairs Secretary Mike Russell said any assurances from the UK were “not true”.

Plans for how a UK-wide “internal market” will operate after the country leaves the EU were published earlier in the week.

UK Business Secretary Alok Sharma said the move would see “the biggest transfer of powers in the history of devolution”.

But the Scottish government has said the plan would “strip power” from the Scottish Parliament.

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Much of the debate over powers has focused on food standards and products like chlorinated chicken

Speaking on BBC Scotland’s Sunday Politics programme, Mr Jack said the objections raised by Mr Russell were a “confected red herring”.

He said there was “absolutely no threat” to Scottish government policies like free university tuition or alcohol minimum pricing.

“There is not a single power being taken away from Holyrood or any of the other devolved administrations and when challenged in parliament this week, they couldn’t come up with a single power they’re losing,” he said.

“This is absolutely a power surge for them, not a power grab.”

Much of the debate over powers has focused on food standards and whether chlorinated chicken would ever be sold in the UK.

But Mr Jack said this was “not going to happen”.

“Chlorinated chicken can’t be sold in the UK. Nor can hormone-induced beef. We’re quite clear about that. They are illegal products,” he said.

“We’re going to bring all the EU food standards into UK domestic law at the end of this year in the Withdrawal Act. And then we intend to increase our food production standards and our animal welfare standards which are already the highest in Europe.”

‘Bad trade deals’

Mr Jack told the BBC that the only future changes would be to improve food standards and not “diminish” them.

He added: “Were it ever to come to pass that a future government did something on food standards that didn’t satisfy the other devolved administrations first of all there would be a bill to go through the UK Parliament on that trade deal and then there would be consent motions sought from the other administrations.”

However, Mr Russell said he had “no doubt” that under the current proposals chlorinated chicken could be sold in Scotland, even if the Scottish Parliament did not want it.

Speaking earlier on the programme, he said the proposals were there because the UK wanted to be able to do “bad trade deals” with other countries as they were the “only trade deals left to them”.

“To do so they want to make sure that neither the Scottish Parliament or the Welsh Parliament or the Northern Irish Parliament can interfere with that,” he said.

“That won’t just be bad for consumers, it’ll be very bad for business. It will put Scottish businesses out of business if they go ahead.”

Mr Russell said he had heard many assurances in the past from the UK government but they had “come to nothing”.

BBC News