THE Scottish and Welsh governments have issued withering responses after a UK Government report claimed it had been working meaningfully with its devolved counterparts.

The Tory government’s Intergovernmental Relations Review for 2021 was published on Thursday, with Michael Gove claiming it showed “regular, meaningful and sustained joint working between the UK and devolved governments has delivered for people across the whole United Kingdom”.

However, the Welsh and Scottish governments both questioned the conclusions, saying there was a need for deeper and more respectful engagement from Westminster.

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The UK Government’s report focuses on the number of ministerial meetings which have been held between the four governments – more than 440 in 2021.

In the review’s introduction, Intergovernmental Relations Minister Gove (below) wrote: “No single government has all the good ideas. We need to work together …

“This is how intergovernmental relations works – and as this annual report shows, it has been working. The report details the unprecedented amount of calls and meetings that have taken place between the governments. And we will go further.”

The National: Michael Gove

Scottish Constitution Secretary Angus Robertson criticised this focus, saying: “Simply holding meetings does not constitute quality engagement – meetings need to have substance.”

“Too often our experience is one of being told decisions which affect Scotland are being taken without any meaningful consultation taking place beforehand.”

Robertson further said the review only “describes the UK Government’s view”.

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The UK Government report highlighted the Covid-19 response, City and Growth Deals which “put levelling up at the heart of the national agenda”, and COP26 as “key successes” of intergovernmental relations.

A 48-page booklet of the report includes a picture taken at COP26 of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, First Ministers Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford, former first minister Paul Givan, and former deputy first minister Michelle O’Neill on the cover (shown below).

The National: A part of the cover of the UK Government's Intergovernmental Relations Review of 2021A part of the cover of the UK Government's Intergovernmental Relations Review of 2021

However, a Welsh Government spokesperson dismissed the impression given by the report, saying: “Intergovernmental relations are based on more than a glossy brochure.

“Deeper and more meaningful engagement is still needed to resolve a series of ongoing issues.”

The SNP’s Robertson added: “Actions such as repeated breaches of the Sewel Convention and the UK Government’s decision to exclude Scottish ministers from a proper role in decisions about EU replacement funds, continue to threaten devolution and must be reversed if intergovernmental relations are to improve.

“What is needed now is greater attention to improving the quality of engagement if there is to be a more respectful and productive relationship between governments.”

The Sewel Convention says that the UK Government will not “normally” act in devolved areas with the consent of the devolved administration.

Gove said at the launch of the review: “We faced the Covid-19 pandemic together, co-operating on a world-leading vaccination roll-out which benefitted people in every corner of the UK. At COP26 in Glasgow, we stood as one in our determination to set ambitious climate change goals which will protect our planet for the future.

“While we do not always agree, we have shown in the most challenging of times that we can put our differences aside and work together in the interests of the people we serve.”

The UK Government further said the review was “just the latest step”, pointing to a “landmark agreement” which set up new councils and steering groups to facilitate and transform intergovernmental relations.

However, the Scottish and Welsh governments also expressed doubts about the new system after its announcement in January, doubting the Tories would honour the “spirit” of the changes.