SNP MP accuses UK Government of ‘dodging scrutiny’

MPs have hit out at a failure to establish the Scottish Affairs Committee more than four months after the election.

SNP MP accuses UK Government of ‘dodging scrutiny’

Opposition MPs have hit out at a failure to establish the Scottish Affairs Committee more than four months after the election.

SNP Perth and North Perthshire MP Pete Wishart has accused the UK Government of attempting to “dodge scrutiny” by pulling a motion to set it up this week.

He claims this is an attempt to “block” the committee.

Before the election, the Scottish Affairs Committee led on the response to rising drug deaths in Scotland – 1187 were recorded in 2018.

Lib Dem North East Fife MP Wendy Chamberlain said she was “frustrated and disappointed” at the stalemate, which she blamed on “petty bickering” between the Conservatives and the SNP over the membership of the committee.

The UK Government proposed five Conservative members, one more than before the election, with the SNP having three.

Under the proposals, Labour would have two members and the Lib Dems would have one MP.

The SNP rejected the idea, claiming it did not reflect the electoral picture in Scotland, although the party dropped its opposition last week.

Membership of select committees in Westminster usually reflects the number of seats held in the House of Commons by any one party.

Wishart, who was chairman of the committee before the election, said: “The Tory Government must stop dodging scrutiny and let the Scottish Affairs Committee get back to work so we can fulfil our key democratic role of holding the UK Government to account and scrutinising the impact of its policies on Scotland.

“It is completely unacceptable that the Tories have blocked the establishment of the committee for more than four months since the 2019 election – curtailing Scotland’s voice at Westminster even further.

“In the middle of a global pandemic and economic crisis, it is more important than ever that MPs are able to scrutinise the UK Government’s response and its impact on Scotland.”

On Wednesday, Chamberlain said: “This dispute between the SNP and the Conservatives is borne out of a lack of trust but these petty bickerings are preventing us making progress.

“We are in the middle of a pandemic and MPs across the political spectrum must put their disagreements to one side so we can get on with our job.”

She added: “It’s a huge privilege to have been nominated for this committee and I want to get on with the job.

“I urge other members to put aside their differences and focus on what matters.

“The Government must break this deadlock and bring back the motion.”

A source close to the leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, said: “It’s a pity that the SNP objected to the formation of the Scottish Affairs Select Committee when the motion was brought to the house before recess.

“It is unfortunate that as a result there has been a delay to getting its work under way. 

“It had originally been intended that the motion to establish the committee would be debated this week, however that was not possible owing to the necessary changes to business.

“It remains the Government’s intention to bring back the motion as soon as practicable.” 

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