SCOTLAND’S Independence Minister has accused the UK Government of using “tactics tantamount to blackmail” to get consent to its legislation.

Jamie Hepburn said the Sewel convention – which says Westminster will not normally legislate in devolved areas without Holyrood’s consent – had been breached 11 times recently and he expected the UK Government would do so again.

Speaking in a debate on protection of Scottish Parliament powers, he said the threat of proceeding without consent from Holyrood has now become a “weapon” for the UK Government.

Hepburn said: “During the course of our negotiations on the Energy Bill, UK Government ministers indicated that the amendments they offered were conditional on Scottish ministers recommending that Scottish Parliament give consent to all relevant provisions in the Bill.

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"If the Scottish Government did not recommend consent, the amendments would not be lodged or would be withdrawn.

“This approach effectively reverses the Sewel Convention."

The National:

He added: “UK Government should respect the views of this Parliament and should promote amendments to reflect those - instead it’s threatening to revert to a form of the bill even less acceptable to the Scottish Government and indeed this Parliament unless there is a recommendation for consent.

“The Scottish Government has been clear that such a negotiation tactic is unacceptable – it is tantamount to blackmail and incompatible with good faith negotiation on important topics.”

Tory MSP Donald Cameron said the idea the powers of the Scottish Parliament are “in peril” and being undermined by the UK Government was one of the SNP’s “favourite fantasies”.

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Hepburn responded saying the “take it or leave it approach” of the UK Government in relation to the Energy Bill was an example of Westminster dictating to the Scottish Government and Parliament.

Cameron said: “These aren’t rational arguments. It’s just empty rhetoric from the minister.”

The Tory MSP went on: “In terms of the Scotland Act, it is permissible for the UK Government to legislate in devolved areas, that’s a matter of law, that’s a founding principle of this Parliament. That is why we have the Sewel Convention to enable the UK Government to legislate in devolved areas where necessary.”

He also disputed the notion there had been “blackmail” over the Energy Bill, saying: “There is always discussions at ministerial and official level about these things.”

Meanwhile Labour MSPs were challenged to confirm if the Sewel Convention would be incorporated into legislation if their party was in power at Westminster.

Neil Bibby responded: “There’s proposals set out in the report on the UK’s future in that regard and it’s certainly something we are considering very carefully and taking forward - obviously the manifesto process is still to be set.”

MSPs backed the motion put forward by Hepburn stating the devolution settlement has been “rolled back” by the actions of the UK Government, by 83 to 29.

A Labour amendment, which called on the UK Government to build a “more consensual means of preserving common standards and safeguards across the UK”, passed by 83 votes to 29.

A Tory amendment to the motion fell.