Published:

Scottish Tories attack SNP over anti-nuclear stance…

The SNP is, for some reason, a resolutely anti-nuclear party. Yet as the UK sails into the teeth of a cost-of-living crisis fuelled by surging energy prices, the Conservatives claim that the Scottish Government has not actually modelled the impact of shuttering Scotland’s nuclear power stations

Once again, this row highlights a bizarre consequence of our chaotic devolution ‘settlement’. Energy policy is, rightly, reserved to Westminster. In a world where countries such as Russia are increasingly prepared to exploit their influence on global markets to further their geopolitical ambitions, it is a national security issue.

Yet because planning policy is devolved, the SNP and the Greens are able to block the construction of any new nuclear power plants in Scotland, even though a new generation of such plants (albeit not using next-generation technology) forms an important part of the Government’s plan for reaching Net Zero – not to mention offering security of supply and thus less exposure to volatile energy markets for the consumer.

This artefact of Westminster’s chaotic retreat from Scotland is out-of-step with modern unionist thinking, which increasingly recognises that the British State has an essential role to play in national infrastructure. Perhaps it is time to follow the Union Connectivity Review with a Union Energy Review, and create a separate, national planning framework for qualifying projects.

(Of course, this would also involve reversing the recent mind-boggling decision to devolve the Crown Estate, which means it is now the Scottish Government leasing a vast chunk of the seabed of the UK’s maritime Exclusive Economic Zone. It’s as if a big section of unionism’s official leadership just want to lose. Thankfully, Simon Hart is holding the line in Wales.)

…as Greens attack Nationalists over freeports

The Scottish Greens have attacked the SNP after the latter signed an agreement with the Government to establish two low-tax freeports in Scotland. Ross Greer MSP, their finance spokesman, derided the Nationalists’ assurances that the projects would fulfil their environmental criteria as a “greenwash”.

In truth, the SNP have been spinning hard, with one MSP claiming that the ‘greenports’ were going ahead “with all our red lines intact”. According to Whitehall sources, this isn’t true, at least on the ‘greenports’ name and the ‘real living wage’ demand.

This split probably won’t have much of an impact on the two separatist parties’ cooperation deal at Holyrood, which excluded freeports. But if the bid to whip up renewed public enthusiasm for independence continues to go nowhere, it will be interesting to see how their alliance fairs if they are forced to focus on the day-to-day governance of Scotland.

Legal challenge to UKIMA fails, for now

A bit of good news this week: a court as thrown out the Welsh Government’s challenge to the UK Internal Market Act, the vital legislation that helps to protect the integrity of the British internal market outside the EU.

Mark Drakeford and his ministers are angry that the legislation restricts their ability to make regulations which could fracture it and create trade barriers inside the United Kingdom, on the basis that these are ‘devolved powers’.

However, prior to Brexit they were exercised by the EU. This row is therefore simply the latest clash in the long-running battle over whether powers exercised by Brussels were somehow ‘devolved’ under New Labour. Devocrats say yes, those who want a coherent UK say no.

In this instance, the court has rejected the Welsh Government’s case on the grounds that it is ‘premature’. This leaves Drakeford scope to try again as and when he can identify a specific instance of UKIMA doing its job. Suffice to say, the Government should commit to whatever subsequent legislation is necessary to maintain our common market, rather than allowing this essential legislation to be unpicked by the courts.