SNP Minister Neil Gray says UK Government's Nationality and Borders Bill 'repugnant and regressive'

An SNP minister has said the UK Government's Nationality and Borders Bill is "repugnant and regressive", as he urged the Scottish Parliament to refuse legislative consent for some of its provisions.

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Neil Gray, the minister for Culture, Europe and International Development, said the Bill would not fix problems in the UK's asylum system.

The Bill seeks to curb English Channel crossings and change how asylum claims are processed.

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Both the Scottish and Welsh governments have condemned the legislation, including suggestions there will be "push-back" exercises involving enforcement officials seeking to repel small boats.

During a debate in Holyrood on Tuesday, Mr Gray said provisions of the Bill required legislative consent.

However this was disputed by the Scottish Conservatives, who said the Bill concerned reserved matters.

Mr Gray, who joined the government last month, said: "I find my first debate as a minister as about a Bill that I find repugnant and regressive."

Neil Gray MSP said he found the bill repugnant.Neil Gray MSP said he found the bill repugnant.
Neil Gray MSP said he found the bill repugnant.

He continued: "Let me be clear, the provisions in this bill will not fix the problems with the UK asylum and immigration systems.

"Instead, they will create barriers which will damage our communities, pushing already vulnerable people to the margins of society.

"They will add unnecessary complexity to the already challenging asylum system, restricting rights for refugees based not under the need for protection but how they arrived in the UK."

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Scottish Conservative MSP Donald Cameron said the relevant provisions of the Bill, which relate to age assessments and modern slavery, do not fall in the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament.

He said: "The Home Office has noted that the national age assessment board will be a centralised team within the Home Office that local authorities can use if they do not want to conduct their own age assessments can use - not forced on local authorities, but optional.

"That's not directly affecting the exercise or functions of Scottish devolved bodies to use Scottish Government's own phrase - quite the reverse."

Following the debate in Holyrood, Mr Gray's motion was passed by 94 votes to 29.

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