Nicola Sturgeon's alternative Brexit bill ruled outside competence of Scottish Parliament

Posted On: 
28th February 2018

Nicola Sturgeon's attempt to force Theresa May's hand in a row over devolved powers after Brexit has been dealt a blow after a flagship bill was ruled outside the remit of the Scottish Parliament.

Nicola Sturgeon has accused Westminster of a 'power grab'.
PA Images

Ken Macintosh, Holyrood's presiding officer, said the European Union (Legal Continuity) (Scotland) Bill was not within the Scottish Parliament's competence.

The bill, which is meant to be the SNP's alternative to the UK Government’s EU Withdrawal Bill, has been brought forward amid a furious row about what happens to powers being returned to the UK after Brexit.

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Ms Sturgeon has accused UK ministers of a "power grab" by planning to bring the powers in areas such as fishing and agriculture under Westminster control rather than pass on to the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales.

The SNP leader has said it is "likely" that the Scottish government will refuse to give its consent to the UK legislation when it comes before Holyrood.

Scottish Brexit minister Mike Russell insisted Holyrood should be able to consider the SNP's own bill as an alternative.

He said: "If the UK Government drops its power grab then it may still be possible to reach agreement, in which case we would not need to proceed with the continuity bill.

"But we are proposing this bill should be put through on an emergency timetable to ensure it becomes law in time to make the necessary preparations.

"It must be stressed that the Scottish government can only introduce this bill if we are satisfied that it is within the powers of the parliament to do so.

"The statement from the Scottish Parliament’s Presiding Officer on legislative competence does not in any circumstance prevent the Scottish Government from introducing or progressing any bill – nor does it prevent the Scottish Parliament from approving this bill. We are determined to protect the devolution settlement that the people of Scotland voted for."

If passed the continuity bill would give the Scottish Parliament a greater role in scrutinising proposals for changes to laws as a result of Brexit, while it would also allow Scottish ministers to retain the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights in law.

The bill also contains a power for Scotland to keep pace with EU law after Brexit.