RISHI Sunak has refused to say the UK Government will respect its Scottish counterpart’s input on Tory efforts to change human rights laws – just moments after calling for the two governments to “work in partnership”.

The comments came as the Prime Minister was quizzed by some of Westminster’s most senior MPs during a hearing of the Liaison Committee on Tuesday afternoon.

SNP MP and KC Joanna Cherry challenged Sunak on his government’s plans to overhaul human rights laws in the UK.

Tory ministers have variously said that the UK will need to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), and that they also plan to repeal the 1998 Human Rights Act which put the ECHR on the UK statute books.

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Cherry said that both the convention and the act were “woven into the Scotland Act which established the Scottish parliament”, and pointed to expert advice which said that the consent of the Scottish parliament would be needed to repeal them.

The KC pointed to Sunak’s past comments where he had pledges a “collaborative and constructive” relationship between the UK and Scottish Governments, before asking: “Will you respect the vote of the Scottish parliament if it withholds consent to the repeal of the Human Rights Act?”

Sunak (below speaking to the committee) twice avoided answering the question.

He said: “I don’t think anyone would expect all governments across the United Kingdom to agree on absolutely everything, but where we can work collaboratively and constructively together we will do.”

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Cherry pressed: “You said moments ago that the Scottish Parliament was the most powerful devolved parliament anywhere in the world.

“Wouldn't you expect such a powerful devolved parliament to be able to protect human rights laws woven into its foundation document?”

An evasive Sunak responded: “I'd expect the Scottish Parliament to continue delivering for its people on the things that matter, whether that's schools or policing, and working with the UK Government where it makes sense.”

The Prime Minister was also careful to avoid making any firm statements when quizzed by another SNP MP, Pete Wishart, on the run of polls showing majority support for Scottish independence.

Quizzed what he would do to respond to the “state of the Union” – the title of that particular segment of the committee hearing – Sunak said: “I'm going to continue delivering for the people of Scotland.

“I think we've talked about all the issues that the country is grappling with, whether it's inflation, the cost of living more than anything else, but also making sure that we can have health services that are responsive to people's needs, protecting our energy security, standing up to Russian aggression.

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“These are all really important issues and I think on many of them we can and will continue to work constructively with the Scottish government to make a difference to people's lives. That's very much my focus, and that's what I'll continue to do.”

Wishart said Sunak’s responses were “hollow and woeful”. He went on: “If there was an independence referendum tomorrow I think there would be a very good chance that Scottish independence would win.

“At some point you will have to sit down and deal with that. Why don’t you just deal with that just now? Why don’t you bring forward the necessary change in legislation so we could do this, because the other option, surely, is support for independence is going to go up and at some point, you’re gonna have to address this.”

He also said: “My belief is that the Scottish people would like their governments – both the Scottish Government and the UK Government – to focus on the issues that are most pressing at the moment, given the scale of the challenges that we face.

“I have been clear that I want to do that in a constructive manner. I want to work in partnership with the Scottish Government where we can and I think we can make a difference to people’s lives.”

The Liaison Committee is made up of the chairpeople of Westminster’s other committees. Cherry chairs the Human Rights (Joint Committee), while Wishart is the chair of the Scottish Affairs Committee.