Scottish parliament poised to reject EU Withdrawal Bill amid devolution row

Posted On: 
15th May 2018

The Scottish parliament is expected to refuse consent to the Government’s main Brexit bill later today, as MSPs continue to battle UK ministers over devolved powers.

Holyrood is set to refuse to back the UK's key Brexit legislation
PA Images

SNP, Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green MSPs are expected to vote against backing the EU Withdrawal Bill, with only the Conservatives set to offer their support.

Members fear that devolved powers which are currently within EU-wide frameworks of rules and regulations are to be handed to Whitehall rather than Holyrood after Britain leaves the EU.

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Failure to break the deadlock despite months of talks comes after Welsh ministers, who also initially opposed the legislation, reached an agreement with the UK Government on the legislation.

The concern has prompted Scottish Brexit minister Michael Russell to put forward a motion stating that Holyrood will refuse it on the grounds it would “constrain(s) the legislative and executive competence of the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government”.

He added that agreement could still be reached, however, if the UK removed the clause from the bill which automatically transfers those new powers to Westminster.

While the Scottish parliament's refusal to back the bill will not legally prevent ministers from pressing ahead, failure to acknowledge their concerns risks ramping up constitutional tensions.

Speaking ahead of the debate and vote, Mr Russell told MSPs: “This is not some abstract issue - this covers key policy areas such as farming, food and drink, fisheries and protecting the environment.

“I have said time and again it is unacceptable that the legislation gives the UK Government the power to ban the Scottish Parliament from legislating on devolved areas for up to seven years without the Parliament’s consent.

“That is why I must recommend the Scottish Parliament votes against accepting the bill in its current form.”

Scottish Conservative constitution spokesman Adam Tomkins defended changes that UK ministers had made to the bill.

“It’s profoundly regrettable that we don't have a deal in Scotland to allow us to move on,” he said.

“The blame for that lies entirely with the SNP. Nicola Sturgeon has refused to compromise. It's not in Scotland's interests that the SNP prefers picking fights to making a deal.”