MICHAEL Russell has reiterated the Scottish Government’s commitment to protecting Holyrood’s powers amid fears of a power grab by Westminster.

During his address to the SNP conference this afternoon, Scotland’s Brexit minister stated his opposition to the EU Withdrawal Bill and the importance of protecting the devolved settlement for Scotland’s fisheries, agriculture and food and drink sectors.

He also said that “Brexit is now all about keeping the Tories in power”.

“Brexit isn’t about Scotland. It isn’t even about Britain. It is about the Tories. And it is being used by the Tories – north and south of the border – to attack Scotland and our vision of Scotland – a civic, constructive, positive, outward looking vision,” he said.

“Brexit is now all about keeping the Tories in power, no matter what it takes. It is about their desire to take back control – for themselves.

“Control of our Parliament too – indeed handing control of our Parliament over to a minority in that Parliament, the Scottish Tories who could, and would, veto what the elected government and the overwhelming majority of that Parliament actually wanted.

“For that is where we are heading. To a situation in which no matter how Scotland votes it is the Tories who get to decide.”

In May, MSPs voted overwhelmingly to withhold legislative consent for the EU Withdrawal Bill, over the way it would redistribute devolved powers once they are repatriated from Brussels.

The Westminster government wants to have the final say on which powers are devolved immediately, and which are reserved for up to five years to create UK-wide common frameworks.

The Scottish Government recognises the need to have UK arrangements in place, but insists these must be agreed with Holyrood rather than imposed by Westminster. Ministers north of the Border fear UK ministers would develop policies, for instance on farming tailored to interests south of the border, rather than ones in Scotland. They are particularly concerned over any future relaxation of existing EU rules over food standards and animal welfare by the UK Government in order to negotiate post Brexit trade deals with countries outside the EU, including the United States. They fear lowering these standards could leave the door open to products such as chlorinated chicken and hormone-injected beef - both of which are banned in the EU - and which could damage Scotland's food and farming industries.

Russell told delegates: “We can’t compromise if irreversible damage is to be done to Scotland and all the people who live here. We can’t compromise if the outcome would be damage to our country and its democracy. And we can’t compromise with those who do not care about our future, but only about their moving backwards into an imaginary past.

“The Scottish Government will continue to defend Scotland’s Parliament, not because it is the best it could be, but because it is the best we presently have - and only with it in place can we make it better.

“We of course want to continue on the journey of Scottish democracy, to be honest to that description – from Donald Dewar himself - of our hard won new Parliament as a process, not an event, but we will not turn away from those who have a different view of the end point. “And we will behave in the same co-operative and collaborative way with those in the other devolved administrations when our shared rights are threatened.”

The Scottish Government’s Brexit Minister concluded: “We have shown determination.

“Determination to protect the democratic settlement and structures we have.

“Determination to preserve our links with Europe in the least damaging way possible “Determination to support and assist - as much as we can - those who will suffer as a result of the actions of the UK Government.

“I am honoured - if sometimes a little overwhelmed - to take forward the task of making the case for Scotland here, in the rest of the UK and in Europe. That case is solid one. One built upon the firm foundations of democracy and fair dealing.

“I am determined to go on making it for as long as our country needs to have it made. Making it until that time when we finally get to choose between a backward looking isolationist Tory Brexit and an outward looking, inclusive, independent European future in which Scotland will stand on equal terms, peaceful and prosperous, with all the other countries on our continent of Europe.

“And then moving forward with them.”