Alister Jack says SNP ‘masquerading as a party of government’
Immigration minister Kevin Foster clashed with MSPs in angry exchanges at Holyrood’s culture, tourism, Europe and external affairs committee today. When Mr Foster was asked by SNP MSP Christine Grahame if he had engaged with the Scottish government on plans for migration, he said the devolved government’s migration minister Ben McPherson was “effectively a spokesperson role”.
The only way to protect Scotland’s interests is by becoming an independent country
He then told MSPs that the UK Government would not work with Scottish ministers on “issues that we fundamentally disagree on” and said he “hadn’t met Mr McPherson” despite eight requests for meetings.
Mr Foster told the committee: “If you just want to talk migration rules, that’s not going to be productive.”
Furious at the exchange, Ms Grahame said: “UK immigration policies threaten to plunge Scotland’s working-age population into decline, cause serious staffing shortages in key industries and inflict lasting damage to our public services.”
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She continued: “It’s absolutely unacceptable for Tory ministers to dismiss these serious concerns and point-blank refuse to work constructively with the devolved governments to create an immigration system that recognises the needs, values and aspirations of Scotland.
“Tory ministers should urgently start engaging with the Scottish Government on their devastating migration plans – rather than engaging in petty constitutional politics and treating our Scottish Parliament with utter contempt.
“If they don’t, it will be clear that they think they can do what they like and get away with it, dictate to us from Westminster, and completely ignore the role of the devolved governments.
“The Tory government’s sheer ignorance when it comes to devolution has made clear beyond any doubt that the only way to protect Scotland’s interests is by becoming an independent country.”
Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP is at loggerheads with the UK Government over its demands for a second referendum on Scottish independence.
Scottish Secretary Alister Jack is moving more UK officials to Edinburgh amid rising support for the SNP’s IndyRef2 bid.
Mr Jack and Downing Street want to increase the UK Government’s identity with the new plans which includes creating a new Scottish Home Office migration unit.
He said: “The Prime Minister has been very clear that he wants to see more ministers visiting Scotland.
“We are asking those departments to put key people into Queen Elizabeth House, the new hub that we have in Edinburgh.
“If you take the Home Office, a migration team will be there making sure we get migration relevant to Scotland’s needs.”
It comes following visits by UK Government ministers including Prime Minister Boris Johnson and ministers, Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Business Secretary Alok Sharma.
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Mr Jack stressed the increased presence of Westminster ministers in Scotland was a reaction to the impression the UK Government had “retreated a bit over the years”.
A Whitehall source said: “It’s extremely important for the UK to have a wider presence in Scotland and a greater focus in Whitehall north of the border.
“Scotland is dominated by the SNP with many policy comments often going unchallenged so we will aim to respond more efficiently.”
More than 15 polls have shown support for Scottish independence with the latest Ipsos Mori poll conducted between November 20 and 26 showing huge support for Ms Sturgeon’s administration.
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