THE UK Government has been accused of “dodging scrutiny” by failing to allow the Commons’ Scottish Affairs Committee to reconvene.

It is to date the only departmental select committee which has been not been reassembled in the four months since the General Election in December.

The role of the cross-party committee is to examine and interrogate how UK policies affect Scotland. Pete Wishart, the committee’s chair, is currently the only member of the body which was due to start an inquiry into the UK’s four nation approach to the coronavirus.

It is understood Scottish Secretary Alister Jack was due to appear before the probe early next month.

Scotland’s Constitutional Affairs Secretary Michael Russell and the chief medical officers of Scotland and England would also have been expected to have been called as witnesses.

This week a motion agreed by all political parties to establish the committee was withdrawn at the last moment by the UK Government.

Last night Wishart hit out at UK Government for pulling the motion, saying it was an attempt to “block” the committee from resitting.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

He continued: “We have important plans to inquire into how the four nations strategy on dealing with the pandemic has worked – but those plans, including having agreed an evidence session with the Secretary of State for Scotland, could now be thrown into jeopardy due to further UK Government delays.”

Before the election the committee led on the response to rising drug deaths in Scotland – 1187 were recorded in 2018.

LibDem North East Fife MP Wendy Chamberlain, who has been nominated as a member of the committee, said she was “frustrated and disappointed” at the stalemate. She blamed the situation on an argument between the Tories and the SNP over the membership of the committee.

The UK Government proposed five Conservative members, one more than before the election and just one less than the number of Tory MPs in Scotland, with the SNP having three. The SNP rejected the idea, claiming it did not reflect the electoral picture in Scotland, although the party dropped its opposition last week.

On Wednesday, Chamberlain said: “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. I urge other members to put aside their differences and focus on what matters. The Government must bring back the motion.”

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