Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said the SNP were “not working with us” in the Conservative’s plans to level up the United Kingdom. He said the Holyrood government was being “different for the sake of it” and refusing to engage in Westminster policies.
Speaking at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, Mr Jack said the SNP was refusing to work with him on the Union Connectivity Review which assesses transport connectivity between the nations of the United Kingdom.
The review, led by the chairman of Network Rail Sir Peter Hendy, is due to be published shortly.
“I’ve been very dismayed that the Scottish Government have not engaged in the Union Connectivity Review,” he told Tory members.
“The [Scottish] Transport Secretary Michael Matheson told his civil servants not to give Sir Peter any data and not to engage with him whatsoever, which really to me is irresponsible nationalism.”
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“Michael Russell, the constitutional secretary said to the civil servants ‘don’t engage with the UK Government’, even though 60 percent of Scotland’s trade is with the rest of the United Kingdom.
“It’s worth over half a million jobs and over £50billion pounds.
“We’re equally now seeing a pattern with free ports.
“We have eight free ports announced for England.
“I want to announce a free port for Scotland after a sensible bidding process.
“Yet, the Scottish Government want to call them ‘green ports’ and introduce other uncompetitive restrictions like a requirement to have the real living wage.”
The Internal Markets legislation sets out how trade within the UK operates post-Brexit, but critics warned the Act represented a power grab by Westminster at the expense of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The Government later made changes following several defeats in the House of Lords but the SNP continued to warn it would “demolish devolution”.
The Scottish Government has previously argued transport is devolved to Holyrood and asked the Conservatives to respect this rather than engage in a “power grab”.