EU Withdrawal Bill
Scottish Government says devolution must be defended.
The Scottish Government cannot recommend the Scottish Parliament give its consent to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill in its current form, the Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland's Place in Europe Michael Russell has told MSPs.
In a statement at Holyrood, Mr Russell set out the Government’s opposition to the Bill’s proposals to transfer responsibility for all EU law to Westminster, even for devolved matters.
He explained that this would mean the Scottish Parliament would have no say on changes to existing EU laws in areas including agriculture, fisheries, justice, forestry or research.
Mr Russell confirmed that a series of amendments, jointly agreed with the Welsh Government, will be published shortly. He also said that if no agreement is reached on the content of the Bill, Scottish Ministers will consider other available options for legislation in the Scottish Parliament to prepare devolved laws for the impact of EU withdrawal.
Pointing out that that the devolution settlement is based on the principle that policy areas are devolved unless they are specifically reserved in the Scotland Act, Mr Russell said:
“The EU (Withdrawal) Bill appears to represent a deliberate decision by the UK Government to use the process of Brexit as cover for taking powers in areas of policy which are clearly within the responsibility of this Parliament.
“In areas of Scottish devolved responsibility vital to the success of our country, such as agriculture, the environment, fisheries, forestry, research, or justice cooperation, the Scottish Parliament will have no say over what comes back from the EU on withdrawal or what is done with these important policy areas afterwards.
“It is not a logical, or essential, part of any Withdrawal Bill that new limitations are placed on the Scottish Parliament’s powers, on the National Assembly for Wales’s powers, or on the powers of the Northern Ireland Assembly.”
Mr Russell added:
“This is not a debate about whether we should leave the European Union. The position of this government and indeed the position of the people of Scotland expressed in last year’s referendum is clear on that matter. We don’t want to leave.”
But, he said: “We have frequently made it clear that, despite our wish to maintain EU membership, we recognise our obligation to prepare Scotland as best we can for what might transpire. Indeed Brexit is going to be such a dramatic, damaging upheaval to the UK’s legal systems and to our laws that it is imperative that we do everything we can to prepare responsibly for the consequences of EU withdrawal.
“The only appropriate way to divide powers between the governments is this: powers in relation to policy areas which are devolved must be for devolved ministers and devolved legislatures. Thereafter, there will be space, time and willingness to agree cooperation over the shared use of these powers in a way which respected the responsibility of this Parliament to hold to account those who make decisions in devolved areas.”
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