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FM secures cross-party support

Holyrood to reject Westminster Brexit powers bill

Nicola Sturgeon: important principle (photo by Terry Murden)

MSPs will deliver another snub to Theresa May’s Brexit plans today by refusing to give Holyrood’s consent to the UK’s EU Withdrawal Bill.

The Scottish and UK governments remain divided over the bill with the former insisting that Westminster is intent on seizing devolved powers.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s position has been strengthened by support from Labour, the LibDems and the Greens in rejecting the Westminster bill.

The Scottish Conservatives will now be isolated in parliament.

The Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington last Friday said in Edinburgh that he hoped the Scottish government would follow Wales and accept the terms of the bill. He said the door is still open to finding a deal and insisted the vast majority of powers being transferred from Brussels “will by-pass Westminster entirely”.

Both sides have agreed that some powers – such as food labelling – should have UK authority, but there is a difference of view of how this is handled.

Scottish ministers say the devolved parliaments should have to give express consent for changes to these frameworks. The UK government says there should be no right of veto.

Ms Sturgeon said there was an “issue of principle” at the heart of the row. “The consent of the Scottish Parliament to the removal of any of our powers should be an absolute prerequisite.

“We’re still open to doing a deal if the UK government respects that principle.

“We’ve always said that post-Brexit there will be area where UK-wide frameworks will be required, but they should not imposed on Scotland in devolved areas, they should be introduced only with the consent of the Scottish Parliament.”

Scottish Labour Brexit spokesperson Neil Findlay, said:  “As the party that delivered devolution Labour will always seek to defend and strengthen it. 

“The problems with clause 15, formally clause 11, mean that Labour will vote against the principle of legislative consent for the EU Withdrawal Bill at Holyrood today.

The Tories shambolic handling of this key area for Scotland is pushing the case towards the Supreme Court.

“The people of Scotland want this mess fixed and even at this late stage there is still time to do that.

“That is why this week Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard called for cross-party talks featuring all of the parties of the Scottish Parliament to break the Tory/SNP Brexit deadlock.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat Europe spokesperson Tavish Scott said: “This bill has come a long way from the sorry piece of legislation that was first laid before Parliament but we still cannot support it.

“The Brexit process has been chaotic and the treatment of the devolved administrations has been shoddy.

“Scottish Liberal Democrats are clear that we believe Brexit will be bad for the UK and for Scotland.

“We have consistently argued that we need to see strong dispute resolution mechanisms put in place for a mature and trusting partnership between different parts of the U.K.  This is something that the UK and Scottish Government should have agreed to months ago.

“A modern country needs to have a clear way for its different administrations to resolve their differences. That is a prize which still needs more work to achieve.

“Liberal Democrat MSPs do not believe that the Scottish Parliament should give consent to the EU Withdrawal Bill.”

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