UK News

Devolution discussed at first meeting between Humza Yousaf and Rishi Sunak

Scotland's First Minister Humza Yousaf met the Prime Minister (Jane Barlow/PA)
Lucinda Cameron and Dan Barker, PA Scotland

Scotland’s First Minister raised concerns around “UK Government attacks on devolution” during his first in-person meeting with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, the Scottish Government has said.

A spokesman for Mr Yousaf said the First Minister also made clear he expects Mr Sunak to “respect the democratic wishes of Scotland’s Parliament” by granting a Section 30 order, which would grant the Scottish Parliament the power to hold a second independence referendum.

They also discussed the cost-of-living crisis and rising energy bills as well as the Scotch whisky industry.

Mr Yousaf said he was pleased the Prime Minister committed to fairness in how the latter is treated by the UK Government and that Mr Sunak “now needs to deliver on that”.

The meeting in London on Monday evening came after Tory peer and former lead Brexit negotiator Lord Frost last week suggested “rolling back” some currently devolved powers.

Rishi Sunak
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (right) on a visit to Scotland in January (Russell Cheyne/PA)

It also comes after the Scottish Government delayed the introduction of its deposit return scheme from August to March next year in a move that circular economy minister Lorna Slater blamed on Westminster.

She said the delay was primarily due to the UK Government not providing an exemption to the Internal Market Act, which was implemented after Britain left the European Union to regulate trade within the country.

Commenting on the meeting between Mr Yousaf and Mr Sunak, a spokesman for Scotland’s First Minister said: “The First Minister (FM) raised concerns around UK Government attacks on devolution, including the Foreign Secretary’s clumsy intervention on Scottish Government activity abroad and comments on devolution from Lord Frost.

“He also once again pressed for an exemption from the Internal Market Act for the deposit return scheme to be granted within weeks.

“The FM also made clear that he expects the Prime Minister to respect the democratic wishes of Scotland’s Parliament by granting a Section 30 order.”

Ahead of the meeting, Mr Yousaf had said it is time for the Prime Minister to bring fairness back to the way whisky is treated ahead of a tax hike later this year.

An alcohol duty freeze is set to end on August 1, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt confirmed earlier this year, when the amount scotch buyers will have to pay the Treasury will go up by 10.1% in line with inflation.

Humza Yousaf
Humza Yousaf has previously spoken to Mr Sunak by telephone (Jane Barlow/PA)

The meeting came amid the looming court battle between Holyrood and Westminster after Scottish Secretary Alister Jack blocked the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill.

The First Minister has previously said challenging the UK Government’s block on the gender Bill was “our only means of defending our Parliament’s democracy from the Westminster veto”, but Mr Sunak previously said Westminster had taken “very careful and considered advice” on the issue before acting.

It is understood that at the meeting on Monday Mr Sunak reiterated the UK Government’s commitment to supporting people with the cost of living, highlighting the support that is going out UK-wide this week, and reiterated the need for all levels of government to work together on these priorities.

Mr Sunak also outlined the situation in Sudan and updated the First Minister on the UK Government’s work to deliver on the priorities of people across the UK.

While the meeting with Mr Sunak was the first in person since the SNP leader was made Scotland’s First Minister last month, it was not their first conversation.

The pair spoke via telephone after Mr Yousaf was chosen by MSPs to be First Minister on March 28.

During his time in the UK capital, Mr Yousaf also met London Mayor Sadiq Khan and EU Ambassador Pedro Serrano.