BORIS Johnson’s Brexit Freedoms” Bill poses a direct threat to the powers of the Scottish Parliament, the deputy first minister has warned.

Downing Street is bringing forward plans which will make it easier to amend EU law as part of a drive which it claims – without evidence – will “cut £1 billion of red tape” for UK businesses.

Scottish and Welsh ministers have raised the alarm over the proposals, which they say they were not consulted on.

Scottish Constitution Secretary Angus Robertson warned: "If these proposals involve changing the law in devolved policy areas, then pressing ahead without the consent of the Scottish Parliament would demonstrate yet again the UK Government’s intent to undermine devolution.”

Deputy FM John Swinney, speaking to BBC Radio Scotland, pointed to briefings in the past fortnight that Johnson was seeking to improve inter-governmental relations with the devolved administrations. According to reports, the PM is implementing a new communications structure designed to strengthen ties with Holyrood, the Senedd and Stormont.

But Swinney suggested those plans were already in tatters by Saturday morning, when Robertson held a brief call with the UK Attorney General Suella Braverman.

The deputy FM said the plan for a “Brexit Freedoms” Bill was “announced to us”. He added: “No prior consultation, no engagement, no dialogue, no enhancement of the way in which the administrations work together. So the stories that were run a couple of weeks ago are totally meaningless.”

Swinney said Robertson was “summoned” to the Saturday morning meeting to be “told what is going to be happening”. He continued: “With the danger, which has been set out by our counterparts in Wales as well, that the powers of the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly may well be undermined as a consequence of the decision.”

The SNP minister rejected suggestions that the new Bill could help “streamline” and improve governance in Scotland by cutting “red tape”. He insisted there wasn’t a “scrap of evidence” to support that claim.

The National: Deputy First Minister John Swinney

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Swinney added: “If you want evidence about the undermining of the Scottish Parliament, have a look at the Internal Market Bill, which is already on the statute book. Designed by the UK Government to use the excuse of Brexit to undermine the powers of the Scottish Parliament. That’s the reality of the threat to devolution that we face today.”

He concluded: “We’ll take forward discussions with the UK Government but the public in Scotland need to be aware of the very direct threat there is to the powers of the Scottish Parliament from the actions of the UK Government.”

The “Brexit Freedoms” Bill will affect the handling of retained EU law – Brussels-made regulations which were preserved in the UK statute book for legal continuity after the Brexit transition period ended in 2020.

The UK Government has previously made clear that it intends to eventually amend, replace or repeal all of the retained law that it deems “not right for the UK”. But Downing Street said that under current rules, changing or scrapping regulations in the pipeline of outdated legislation would take “several years” because of a comprehensive alteration process.

It said primary legislation is needed for many changes, even if “minor and technical”.

Downing Street claims the new Bill will “ensure that changes can be made more easily”, so the UK can “capitalise on Brexit freedoms more quickly”. It did not specify exactly what provisions the Bill will contain to speed up reforms, or how it calculated that businesses would save £1bn through the cutting of red tape.

Meanwhile, the Welsh government sought assurances that the new legislation wouldn't represent a "power grab".

Speaking on BBC Radio Wales, Welsh counsel general and constitution minister Mick Antoniw expressed concerns that the Bill might lead to reductions in farming and fishing standards, as well as environmental protections.

"We want to engage with the UK Government constructively," he said. "We want to ensure it doesn't become a Westminster power grab."

Boris Johnson claimed that, while the UK will not diverge from the EU rulebook “for the sake of it”, the legislation will help secure investment in cutting-edge technologies.

“There are things we can do differently and we think in a way that will encourage business to invest even more,” the Prime Minister told broadcasters during a visit to Tilbury Docks.

“In all the areas where the UK is strong – cyber, artificial intelligence, all the cutting-edge technologies of the future – we are going to make sure we do things differently and better, where appropriate.

“We won’t diverge for the sake of it but we are going to make sure this the number one place to do business and invest because of the freedoms that we have.”