Nicola Sturgeon vows to block Great Repeal Bill in row over Westminster ‘power grab’

Posted On: 
30th March 2017

The Scottish Government has threatened to block the Great Repeal Bill amid claims UK ministers are mounting a "power grab' on Holyrood.

Nicola Sturgeon has vowed to block the Great Repeal Bill
Credit: 
PA Images

Brexit Secretary David Davis today published a white paper on the bill, which will convert thousands of EU laws into British statute after Brexit.

Scottish Secretary David Mundell said in January that he expected a so-called 'legislative consent motion' to be laid at Holyrood asking MSPs to back the Great Repeal Bill.

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However, Mr Davis said today that he did not know if it would be required after all, as "we don't know the final format of the bill".

Speaking at First Minister’s Questions, Ms Sturgeon said the lack of detail on whether powers such as agriculture, fishing and the environment - currently devolved but ultimately controlled by the EU - will be handed over to Scots ministers amounts to a “power grab” by Westminster.

She said: "The issue, of course, around the Great Repeal Bill is about powers currently with the EU, that if they are to be repatriated in areas that are currently wholly devolved – agriculture, fishing, for example – where should those powers go?

"Now, under the current terms of the Scotland Act, those powers should automatically come to this chamber but nobody in the UK Government, and I discussed this with the Prime Minister on Monday, nobody on the Conservative benches will give that guarantee, which leads me to suspect that what the Tories are actually planning is a power grab on this parliament, and that will be absolutely unacceptable."

A spokesperson for the First Minister said: "In terms of the removing competence element, we wouldn’t in those circumstances be giving legislative consent.

"We’ve no intention of facilitating or enabling the removal of powers from this parliament."

But a spokesman for the Prime Minister said: "No powers currently held by the Scottish government will be taken away. In the Article 50 letter, the Prime Minister said she expected significant new powers to go to the devolved administrations."

Holyrood’s Brexit Secretary Michael Russell said: “The white paper for this Brexit bill leaves many important questions unanswered, such as the nature of the powers for the Scottish Parliament, and the need for the consent of the Scottish Parliament [for the UK to legislate on devolved issues] under the Sewel Convention.

“There are no new powers proposed for the parliament beyond those required to fix the mess that will be caused by Brexit, exposing what have so far been empty promises from the UK Government.”

Mr Russell added: “For the UK government to seek to impose legislative frameworks on these areas would be to take the unprecedented step of extending its powers over Scotland and must not take place. The Scottish Parliament’s competences must not be diminished as a result of Brexit.”

Scottish Labour MP Ian Murray said: “Scottish Labour wants the best possible Brexit deal for Scotland and our position on new powers is absolutely clear – all repatriated powers in devolved areas that return to the UK following Brexit should, in principle, fall under the competency of the devolved administrations. 

“However, this will be a complex process with a number of different stages. Both the UK and Scottish governments have a responsibility to ensure that steps are taken to protect the interests of those affected, including Scottish businesses and our farming and fishing industries."