The National:

THE UK's Internal Market Bill must be the most disastrously ham-fisted piece of legislation that the UK Government has attempted to pass in recent times. The fact alone that in its current form, the UK Government has admitted that it would breach international law should see it scrunched up and consigned to the bin under the desk. The fact that it attempts, even in principle, to override vast swathes of powers devolved to the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish Governments should also be grounds for the same fate.

READ MORE: Warning Brexit Internal Market may lead to Grenfell-like tragedy in Scotland

As people have had time to scrutinise the bill (something that the UK Government is trying to minimise via a compressed debating schedule) we're starting to see what that principle may mean in practice. One of the first of these analyses found that where building regulations differ between Scotland and England, the IMB would force Scotland to accept the “lowest common denominator” between the two which, generally speaking, would mean that Scotland could not increase building regulations above that of England – the spectre of Grenfell and the associated safety implications of such a policy are horrifyingly clear.

But it's not just the safety aspect of building regulations that would be impacted. Scotland's ability to implement the Green New Deal that the Scottish Government professes to support would be nearly impossible if we cannot increase building regulations with regards to energy efficiency and sustainability of materials.

We have less than 25 years to turn Scotland into (potentially even better than) a zero carbon nation and this will require a drastic change in the way we construct our homes and other buildings. We already have a massive challenge ahead of us in terms of retrofitting our older buildings to make them as energy efficient as they can be but we're also making this job harder for ourselves with every day that passes and every new building that goes up that is not GND-compliant. Every building constructed today that does not meet the standards we need to have by 2045 will need to be retrofitted or demolished before then. That goes whether the building is currently 50 years old or was completed today.

If the Scottish Government is serious about its Green New Deal promises then it would, today, increase building regulations to meet these standards for all new buildings. Every day they don't makes their own promise harder to keep.

READ MORE: Brexit Internal Market Bill may be attempt to bypass Barnett formula, MSPs told

This proposal goes beyond the delivery of energy efficient buildings. The Green New Deal demands a completely different supply chain from the one we have right now with far fewer imports (80% of Scottish building materials are imported) and much more sustainability built into the creation of those materials. If the IMB limits the ability for Scotland to increase regulations and forces Scotland to accept sub-standard contracts under the guise of “competition” then we will not be able to create the kind of sustainable, Circular Economy that would take the Green New Deal beyond merely meeting carbon targets. Rather than “protecting jobs”, the IMB would prevent Scotland from creating the kind of construction sector we need for the 21st century.

There may be some scope for the IMB to be bypassed. It may be possible for the Scottish Government to still insist on better regulations within public sector work even if it loses the ability to influence the private sector directly. Common Weal has published a proposal to use the Scottish National Investment Bank to build an unlimited number of subsidy-free, GND-compliant houses for public rent. If the Scottish Government committed to a plan like this and offered such a house to everyone who needs or wants one then the private sector would have to up its game to match (would you prefer a house with a £100/month heating bill or one with a a heating bill of less than £100/year?). If the Scottish Government also committed to creating a Scottish National Infrastructure Company, it could guarantee that the supply chain is created to make sure that materials and skills are there to build these houses - but paradoxically the Government's infrastructure commission recently rejected the idea of a SNIC because it was deemed to be largely outwith its remit to investigate.

READ MORE: Lords demand clarity on law-breaking Brexit Internal Market Bill

The UK's Internal Market Bill looks likely to be a significant barrier to Scotland's ability to protect building regulations as we deal with the climate emergency but there is also still a lack of push from the Scottish Government to meet its own commitments. The Internal Market Bill must be resisted for the reasons outlined above and all of the other reasons sure to be discovered in the days to come but regardless of it, there is more that the Scottish Government can and must do to make sure that all of us get the homes and buildings that we deserve.

Dr Craig Dalzell is the head of policy and research at Common Weal