The UK’s Scottish Affairs committee has mulled its future as a government body and may be replaced with a unitary body to oversee operations with Edinburgh, a report published on Friday revealed.
The report, entitled “The relationship between the UK and Scottish Governments”, questions the efficacy of the department as the Scottish National Party already works with the governmental departments such as the Department for the Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) and others.
The report urges an inquiry into replacing the offices for Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, with a unitary body replacing them to manage inter-governmental relations.
The report also stated that Edinburgh’s relationship to London had become “fractious” following the SNP’s rise to power in 2007 and a change from previous Labour-controlled government.
The 2014 Scottish independence referendum was the “peak” of tensions between the two regions, with the 2016 EU referendum spiking tensions as Scotland chose to remain in the EU and England voted 52 to 48 percent to leave, creating “mutual distrust and political stalemate”, the report said.
The report said that the “fundamental issue at the heart of the relationship is trust, or rather the lack of it,” and called for “both governments to work together to rebuild trust,” in addition to recognising the need for a constructive relationship “underpinned by the principle of parity of esteem”.
“Unless both governments summon the political will to work together to rebuild trust, the relationship will only deteriorate further,” the report cautioned.
Downing Street, Holyrood Face Off over Scottish Affairs Committee
Committee chair Pete Wishart said that the Scottish Office was meant to “ensure that Scottish interests are fully represented” in the UK government, but that had heard that on a “day-to-day basis it is Whitehall departments which maintain the relationship with the Scottish Government”.
But a UK government source replied: "The Scotland Office does a highly effective job strengthening the Union so it's no surprise the SNP want to see it abolished.
📢 @drewhendrySNP: "This is a failed zombie government.— The SNP (@theSNP) June 6, 2019
The Tories are taking us closer to the cliff edge - they should have been listening to people, but they failed to engage, ignoring the Scottish Parliament and the people of Scotland." #bbcqt
Lesley Laird, Shadow Scottish Secretary, added that the report had “shone a light on the inadequacies of how the UK Government interacts with the devolved administrations” and vindicated Labour’s grievances “that intergovernmental mechanisms like the Joint Ministerial Committee need overhauled”.
"These are recommendations that must be taken seriously; a failure to do so by the Tory Government will play into the hands of the SNP Scottish Government," Ms Laird said as quoted by Politics Home.
But a UK Government spokesman replied: "With the Scottish Government proposing an unwanted and divisive second independence referendum next year, that role is more important than ever.
"Scotland's two governments enjoy a close working relationship, as the Secretary of State's evidence to the committee showed,” the spokesman said, adding that the UK government was pleased that the committee had "acknowledged our joint efforts to develop common frameworks in areas such as agriculture when we leave the EU, which will strengthen the UK's internal market”.
"It is simply untrue to say that relations between the two governments have broken down," the spokesman added.
Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon announced in April that Scotland would hold a second independence referendum vote by the end of Parliament’s term set to expire in 2021, arguing that the vote would be a “choice between Brexit and a future for Scotland as an independent European nation.” Following the 2016 EU referendum and failed negotiations with Brussels over a post-Brexit withdrawal agreement, divisions between London and Edinburgh rose dramatically, with SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford repeatedly calling for Scottish independence in Commons.