Why the Brexit Bill will be good for Scottish businesses — Andrew Bowie

The UK Internal Market Bill has been much debated in Westminster, in Holyrood, and for a few days last month, in a limited and specific way, was the dominant theme of my inbox.

Sunday, 11th October 2020, 7:00 am
Andrew Bowie (right) walks the campaign trail with former prime minister Theresa May in Aberdeenshire. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire
Andrew Bowie (right) walks the campaign trail with former prime minister Theresa May in Aberdeenshire. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

This is only to be expected, for this Bill is the most important piece of legislation since the Scotland Act 1999. And it is very, very good for Scotland.

And that is why I was disappointed, if not surprised, that only the Scottish Conservatives voted to give the Bill legislative consent this week at Holyrood.

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Disappointed because this is a necessary bill. A bill that protects jobs. A bill that has been welcomed by the National Farmers Union of Scotland, the Scottish Retail Consortium and the CBI.

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It is a bill that has the potential to bring an infrastructure revolution to Scotland, that will see the end of the devolve-and-forget mentality too prevalent in Whitehall for too long. That will help us deliver on our commitment to level up and unite our country.

Be under no illusion, this Bill is vital for Scotland’s businesses.

Its main aim - to providing continued certainty for people and businesses to work and trade freely across the whole of our United Kingdom.

It is needed because from 1973 until now, our internal market, our freedom to trade, the guarantee of parity of access for businesses and consumers, was underpinned by EU law - the single market of the EU and directives from the European Court of Justice.

But as we move away from the EU and the rules of the single market, we need to provide a legal commitment of continued market access to all of the UK.

This is most important to Scotland because the UK market, our internal market, is Scotland’s biggest, accounting for 60 per cent of our exports.

The UK Government is determined to secure and protect this market for Scottish businesses; securing continued economic opportunities across the UK, increasing competitiveness and supporting the general prosperity and economic security for everyone, wherever in our one nation they live and work.

Mutual recognition of regulations making life easier for businesses and ensuring no barriers to trade within our islands.

Non-discrimination prohibiting direct or indirect discrimination of goods and services and ensuring that a system will be introduced to ensure that professionals regulated in one part of the UK will be able to seek recognition for their qualifications in another - not challenging or doing away with different qualifications, not levelling down to the lowest standard, but respecting, in law, the professional qualifications in each country of our nation and allowing people to move and practice their professions easily across our United Kingdom.

This is all good stuff, positive stuff, great, pro-business, pro-growth, pro-Scotland stuff.

So why on earth do the SNP object to it?

Why, when they would seek, if they had their way, to take an independent Scotland back into the internal market of the European Union, do they object to our acting to underpin, in statute, the internal market of the United Kingdom?

I’ll take a guess. It’s nothing to do with the false flags they are raising about threats to demutualise Scottish Water (it doesn’t) or privatise the NHS (nope). They object because this Bill will allow the UK Government, for the first time since devolution, to spend directly on specific projects in Scotland.

They object because the UK Government giving a much-needed boost to our cash-strapped local authorities might shine a light on how poorly they’ve been treated under the centralising, separatist government in Edinburgh.

They object because it will demonstrate the relevance of the United Kingdom Government to the Scottish people.

They object because, in short, this Bill strengthens the bonds of our one nation and binds us closer together.

This Bill endangers their grand plan — the separation of our country. For that, really, is all the SNP care about — not people, not jobs, not the health service. Those are all a front, a distraction.

They do not like this Bill, despite the fact that it will benefit Scotland, because it promotes and unites our United Kingdom.

This week we have seen the Scottish Government refuse to engage with the UK Government’s connectivity review. We have seen them dismiss the chance to have a free port in Scotland with all the jobs and investment that might bring.

Instead what do we see? We see them refusing to give legislative consent to a bill that promotes business, provides stability and certainty to our economy and binds our country together.

The SNP would rather that Scotland was poorer if it meant that the United Kingdom Government had less power. That is the truth of it, and what a miserable policy to hold.

What a depressing vision for our future.

Well I and the Conservative Government of our United Kingdom have a brighter vision; a vision laid out in the Prime Minister’s speech this week.

A vision for a country united and prosperous, sharing in the advantages and creative dynamism provided by our being one, United Kingdom.

They want to level down, to separate, at the expense of everything else.

We want to level up, to unite, for the good of businesses and the people of the UK - all of the UK.

And this Bill, this Internal Market Bill, is just the start. The UK Government is back in Scotland. Get used to it.

Andrew Bowie is the Scottish Conservatives MP for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine.

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