Scotland, Europe and the Constitution
The result of the EU referendum clearly demonstrates that the people of Scotland see their future as part of the EU. Withdrawal will have profound implications for our economic prosperity, the way we live our lives and for the constitution of the UK.
The UK Government proposals set out in the EU (Withdrawal) Bill would lead to further centralisation of power in Whitehall and Westminster and less, not more, power for people in Scotland over Scottish matters.
The Bill requires the consent of the Scottish Parliament as it legislates in devolved areas and affects the powers of both the Scottish Government and Parliament. We cannot recommend that the Scottish Parliament consents to the Bill in its current form as it contains an unacceptable and impractical constraint on the devolved competence of our Parliament. It intends to replace EU law with unilateral decision-making at Westminster.
We will resist this constitutional development and seek to build cross-party support for alternative proposals which would enhance the devolution settlement. Along with the Welsh Government, we are discussing how the Bill could be amended, and other steps taken, to meet our objections. In the meantime, we are considering how Scottish legislation at Holyrood could provide the necessary continuity of law in Scotland as an alternative to the UK Bill.
The kind of Scotland we envisage is a country that is fair, prosperous, open and tolerant. The implications of the UK's exit from the EU are potentially far-reaching in that context. There will be consequences for jobs, trade, investment, living standards, the rights of individuals, the environment and opportunities available to future generations.
We will seek to build support around the proposals we published in December 2016 in our policy paper 'Scotland's Place in Europe', which proposed we keep Scotland and the UK in the European Single Market and the Customs Union. We will also seek to shape the UK's future partnership with the EU and beyond in order to promote Scotland's trade and investment, rural industries, research and position in the world.
Whatever the Scottish and UK Governments' differences, we need to secure the best possible outcome for Scotland's interests. We will expect the Prime Minister to honour her commitment to engage fully with the devolved administrations. The Joint Ministerial Committee (EU Negotiations) was established to that end. Its remit includes oversight of an agreed UK approach acceptable, as far as possible, to all administrations.
At the end of this period of negotiation with the EU, expected in autumn 2018, when the terms of Brexit and the future of devolution will be clearer, we will set out our judgement on the best way forward for Scotland at that time, including our view on the precise timescale for offering people a choice over the country's future.