Labour ‘interfering in devolution’ with plans to boost Scotland Office – Swinney

Labour is continuing the “interference in devolution” with its promise of new spending powers for the Scotland Office, John Swinney has said.

The First Minister said Labour’s plans are a “democratic outrage”, but he added he will engage with any future UK government if it offers to talk.

He was responding to Labour’s shadow Scottish secretary Ian Murray, who said he will try to work with the SNP-run Scottish Government in exercising the new powers if he becomes a minister after July 4.

Mr Murray said he is seeking to work together but “it takes two to tango”.

Mr Swinney was asked about the comments as he launched the SNP’s manifesto in Edinburgh on Wednesday.

The First Minister told the PA news agency: “The Scotland Act was constructed to give the Scottish Parliament power over a whole range of different areas.

“It wasn’t constructed to allow the UK Government to interfere, in fact it was the exact opposite.”

He said Mr Murray’s comments represent “a continuation of the interference in devolution which the Conservatives have brought forward since Brexit”.

Ian Murray holding a copy of the Labour manifesto, with the words 'Vote for change' behind him
Ian Murray said he will be happy to work with the SNP, but ‘it takes two to tango’ (Jane Barlow/PA)

The First Minister continued: “It’s a democratic outrage.

“The Labour Party needs to decide whether they’re either going to protect devolution or continue the Tory attack on devolution.

“By the form of the Labour Party on austerity and other issues, they’re going to continue the attack on devolution.”

Mr Swinney went on to say he will “happily engage with a United Kingdom government” if he is offered talks.

Labour’s proposals involve spending what is currently levelling up money through the Scotland Office, turning it into a spending department.

At the weekend, Mr Murray said this would be used to tackle poverty and encourage growth north of the border.

He said: “I can assure you that any Scotland Office that I run will be solely focused on delivering for the Scottish people and that means we’ve got to work closely together.

“Of course, it takes two to tango, they’ve got to also decide they want to dance.

“The Scotland Office will be turned into a spending department, we’ve got money to spend too.

“The best bang for your buck is to work together to spend that money in local communities to create jobs and eradicate poverty.”