Northern Ireland news

Stormont minister Nichola Mallon voices scepticism over new structures designed to improve relations between central government and devolved administrations

SDLP Minister for Infrastructure Nichola Mallon. Picture by Liam McBurney/PA Wire

A STORMONT minister has joined her counterparts in Wales and Scotland in voicing scepticism over new structures designed to improve relations between central government and the devolved administrations.

On Thursday, the British government announced a Boris Johnson-chaired council of devolved leaders aimed at bolstering the union.

Writing in The Irish News yesterday, the minister with responsibility for intergovernmental relations Michael Gove described the arrangements as a "new way of working" which "champions mutual respect and genuine collaboration at the heart of a remarkable partnership".

However, the new structures have been met with suspicion by many within the devolved administrations, who believe the Conservative government is seeking to rollback devolution.

Scotland's Deputy First Minister John Swinney said they “will not deliver the step change needed” to improve intergovernmental relations.

The Welsh government echoed Mr Swinney, saying that the real test for the new three-tier structure will be whether the Tories follow “the spirit of the review, based on respect”.

Stormont Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon, who has previously voiced concerns about a Whitehall power grab, said she would engage with the council but was sceptical of its aims.

"Obvously the SDLP will take part in initiatives designed to strengthen collaboration across these islands but the track record of British government ministers tells us that they're interested in undermining, overriding and obstructing locally elected political leaders – if that's what this is about, or what it becomes, then it won't be acceptable to us," she said.

"There is no one who thinks that Michael Gove and Boris Johnson have the best interests of people here at heart and they can't be allowed to run roughshod over the devolution settlement."

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