The escalating stand-off between Nicola Sturgeon and Theresa May over the alleged ‘power-grab’ by Westminster is a fictitious charade being ramped up by the SNP to provoke INDYREF2.  This was the view expressed by Struan Stevenson, Chief Executive of Scottish Business UK (SBUK) a cross-party, cross-sectoral organisation set up to represent the voice of Scotland’s business community opposed to another independence referendum.

Speaking in Edinburgh following a SBUK Board Meeting, Struan Stevenson said:

“Nicola Sturgeon is screaming that the ‘wicked Tory government’ in London is hell-bent on conning Scotland out of its rightful inheritance from repatriated functions like agriculture and fisheries. In fact London has repeatedly stated that they have no such intention and indeed the Scottish parliament will inherit more powers after Brexit, making it one of the most powerful devolved parliaments in the world.

“In the interests of achieving a UK-wide framework on issues such as animal welfare, food hygiene and labeling and agri-environment regulations, the UK government is keen to set the standards which will apply to the whole country before handing back these powers to Holyrood. There is a fear that if these regulatory controls came directly to Edinburgh from Brussels, the SNP government in Scotland would set laws that could be different on both sides of the border. They have proven their willingness to do this already with their drink driving laws.

“Diverging regulatory controls on things like animal welfare and agri-environment regulations would be nonsensical and would cause massive and costly confusion to consumers and to business and industry. It could lead to  ‘gold plating’ in relation to the environment and animal health – where some parts of the UK choose to have more stringent regulations, or alternatively, a race to the bottom with different parts of the UK trying to gain competitive advantage. Indeed this is precisely why farmers’ organisations are arguing for a UK-wide policy framework.

“Nicola Sturgeon’s claim that this amounts to a ‘power-grab’ is ludicrous. I have yet to see hordes of protesters on the streets of Edinburgh carrying placards that say: “WE DEMAND THE RIGHT TO CONTROL FERTILISER COMPOSITION REGULATIONS”! Mike Russell, the SNP government’s Brexit Minister, has claimed that if these powers are devolved directly to Holyrood, they will then consult with London on a UK-wide framework. That is the most blatant case of the tail wagging the dog that I have ever come across. Indeed, the logic of this argument is stood on its head when you consider that these are regulatory powers that the SNP have, until now, been happy to see exercised by Brussels.

“Nicola Sturgeon’s strategy has been plainly exposed. The First Minister has relied on the advice of James Wolffe QC – the Lord Advocate – to ram through the SNP’s ‘Continuity Bill’ at Holyrood, despite the Presiding Officer warning that it was ultra vires. The bill, which aims to secure the continuity of devolved issues after EU withdrawal, will shortly become law with the customary support of the Greens. Nicola Sturgeon is clearly hoping that this will provoke the Tory government at Westminster into referring the matter to the Supreme Court, where the UK government’s Advocate General for Scotland – Richard Keen QC, a former Scottish Tory Party Chairman – will be forced into a confrontation on the competence of the Bill with James Wolffe QC, representing the SNP government. If the Supreme Court rules that the Scottish government had no right to pass the Continuity Bill, Sturgeon will rub her hands in glee, claiming the wicked Tories at Westminster have used their dominance to thwart Scotland’s valid rights. Her promise to clarify the SNP’s position on independence by the autumn of this year will then be fulfilled when she announces INDYREF2.

“SBUK would caution the First Minister against this calamitous course of action. There is nothing business fears more than risk and uncertainty and these two ogres currently stalk the land. Beset with worries about Brexit, the last thing Scottish business needs or wants is the threat of another referendum on independence. Scotland’s business community repeatedly say that another referendum remains the single biggest threat to our economy, stifling investment, inhibiting growth and choking prosperity. We must never forget that the UK market is worth four times Scotland’s exports to the EU. Our neighbours south of the border are by far our biggest trading partners. Anything that puts that situation at risk must be strenuously avoided. The whole ‘power-grab’ charade should be abandoned along with the SNP government’s fake grievance tactics.”