SNP complain to David Davis over leaked paper viewing arrangements

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The SNP group at Holyrood has written to Brexit Secretary David Davis to complain about “inadequate arrangements” made for MSPs to view key papers.

Leaked papers from the Department for Exiting the EU (DExEU) indicate Scottish economic growth would be cut under each of the three scenarios examined – a no deal Brexit, if the UK agreed a trade deal, or if it continued to remain in the European single market.

Junior Brexit Minister Robin Walker wrote to Holyrood presiding officer Ken Macintosh confirming a confidential reading room at the Scotland Office in Edinburgh had been set up for viewings.

Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament Ken Macintosh (Jane Barlow/PA)
Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament Ken Macintosh (Jane Barlow/PA)

The letter states MSPs can make an appointment to see the documents between 10am and 5pm on Thursday and Friday, with no slots available from 1pm to 2pm.

In a letter to Mr Davis, the SNP Group say the arrangements show an “unacceptable degree of contempt” for the Scottish Parliament.

A UK Government official will be in the room at all times when MSPs are viewing the papers.

The letter, sent on Thursday and signed by Bruce Crawford MSP, SNP Group Convener,  said: “As you may be aware, your department made inadequate arrangements for MSPs to view the preliminary Brexit analysis today and tomorrow.

“These documents, as can be understood from what has entered the public domain so far, show that Scotland will be acutely affected under all Brexit scenarios discussed by the UK government.

“To fail to offer MSPs reasonable time and access to view, consider and draw conclusions upon them demonstrates an unacceptable degree of contempt for the Scottish Parliament.

“Firstly, to limit access to restricted hours, on just two days, in a week when the Scottish Parliament is sitting is not acceptable. I would urge you to arrange further viewing times for MSPs as a priority and give suitable advanced notice of when these are taking place.”

“Secondly, further viewings should be arranged to take place in the Scottish Parliament where members can access the documents more conveniently.”

The letter also said the documents available on Thursday were “significantly incomplete” and proper preparations should be made to ensure MSPs have access to the full range of materials.

Green MSP Patrick Harvie raised his concerns in the Scottish Parliament’s chamber.

He said the material was being made available on an “extraordinarily limited basis to MSPs to look at in a condition of secrecy”.

Joan McAlpine, convener of Holyrood’s Europe Committee, tweeted that she was “incredulous and angry” at the arrangements.

Labour’s Brexit spokesman Neil Findlay said: “This is an absolute nonsense, and takes no consideration of MSPs who have constituencies far from Edinburgh – or indeed the fact that Holyrood is sitting at those times on a Thursday.

“This is the shambolic Tory approach to Brexit summed up.”

Leaks from the documents indicate leaving the EU without a trade deal would cut Scottish economic growth by 9%.

Under a UK free trade deal it would be 6% lower and it would drop by 2.5% if the UK remains in the single market, which Prime Minister Theresa May has ruled out.

A UK Government spokeswoman said: “We wanted to give MSPs the opportunity to view the document before recess.

“That’s why, in the letters to the Presiding Officer, we made clear that the reading rooms would be open from Thursday 8 February.

“If MSPs would like to return to review the document at any point (including after recess) they would be very welcome to do so.”

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