Scottish Government faces international ‘gagging order’ if Labour peer’s proposal goes ahead

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By G.A.Ponsonby

The Scottish Government could be forced to seek permission from London before it can engage in talks with foreign governments in future.

The scenario will become reality if a Labour peer’s amendment to the Scotland Bill is implemented.

The SNP has reacted with fury after it emerged that former Labour MSP Lord George Foulkes added the amendment which would require Scottish Government Ministers to “obtain consent” from their Westminster counterparts before being allowed to speak to foreign government officials.

The amendment to the Bill, which is at Committee stage in the House of Lords, proposes that “before commencing discussions with representatives of foreign governments or inter-governmental organisations Scottish Ministers are required to obtain consent to the discussions from a Minister of the Crown.”

Also included by the Labour peer is an amendment that would prevent Holyrood from discussing reserved matters unless they were to form part of formal representations to the Westminster government.

Commenting on the revelation SNP International Development spokesperson Pete Wishart MP accused Labour of preferring “Tory rule from London” over helping the economy, and added:

“Instead of proposing improvements, like job-creating powers, Labour seems obsessed with sabotaging the Scotland Bill.

“Lord Foulkes ridiculous amendment shows how Labour prefer Tory rule from London, that nobody in Scotland voted for, than delivering the tools and means for the Scottish Parliament to create jobs and grow the economy.

“You would think, after the Prime Minister’s irresponsible walk out of European negotiations, that Scottish Labour would see the urgency of Scotland securing our own direct representation so that, when our vital national interests are being discussed, Scotland is not shut out of the room.”

The SNP MP challenged Scottish Labour’s new leader Johann Lamont to say whether she supported the move which, had it been in place now, would have forced First Minister Alex Salmond to seek the approval of London before arranging recent trade missions to the oil rich Gulf region and China.

Mr Wishart said:

“Lord Foulkes amendment is deeply embarrassing for Labour in Scotland.  Just as his party finally get a Scottish leader, Lord Foulkes insists again that Scotland must take orders from London.  Johann Lamont must now say whether she supports these amendments.

“The Scotland Bill should address the challenges ahead.  It has yet to meet the economic aspirations or needs of Scotland’s people and that should be the first priority.”

The Scotland Bill was recently the subject of scrutiny by a special Holyrood Committee which concluded that the bill’s tax proposals could damage the Scottish economy.

The committee voted by 7 to 4 not to recommend the bill in its current form to the Scottish Parliament and urged the Westminster coalition to instead devolve all tax powers to Scotland.  Labour joined the Conservatives and the Lib Dems in opposing the calls.