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Protecting the Scottish Parliament

Published: 19 Jun 2018 15:35

Minister calls for consent to be embedded in law.

The requirement for the Scottish Parliament to consent to UK Government legislation affecting devolved areas should be embedded into law, Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland’s Place in Europe Michael Russell has said.

In a statement to the Scottish Parliament, Mr Russell called for parliamentary discussion on the best way forward. This follows the UK Government’s decision to push ahead with the EU Withdrawal Bill despite the Scottish Parliament refusing to consent to legislation that could see its powers frozen for up to seven years without agreement.

Mr Russell also confirmed the Scottish Government will continue to identify and draft the legislation needed to prepare for Brexit, while making the case for Scotland to remain within the Single Market and Customs Union.

He said:

“The Scottish Government will do everything in its power to protect the well-being of Scotland and promote the rights and interests of everyone who lives here. We are not going to allow the process of devolution to go backwards.

“The EU Withdrawal Bill still contains unacceptable provisions that allow UK Ministers to change the powers of the Parliament without agreement. The UK Government is ignoring the vote of the Parliament to refuse consent to the bill – in direct breach of the Sewel convention.

“That convention prevents Westminster legislating without consent in areas within our competence or to change our powers. The convention has never been breached before. Now it has been.

“When the most recent Scotland Act was going through the UK Parliament, we argued that references to the Sewel Convention would be nothing more than a convenient fig leaf. So it has proved.

“At that time we also proposed provisions to put Sewel on a stronger footing.  Crucially, these provisions would have required the UK Government to consult with the Scottish Government on any bills requiring consent in advance of their introduction, and they would have provided a proper statutory footing for the Sewel Convention, as recommended by the Smith Commission, by setting out the requirements of the Convention in full, on the face of the Scotland Act.  

“Those provisions would have protected the role of this Parliament in the laws it is responsible for rather than confuse them, as the UK Government’s preferred provisions clearly have now done.  They would have also strengthened inter-governmental working.

“It is time to look again at how we embed the requirement for the Scottish Parliament’s consent in law.”  

He added:

“We will never bring to Parliament recommendations that constrain its competence and reduce its ability to serve the people of Scotland. But we now need to press ahead with developing measures to bring at least a degree of legislative continuity in these uncertain times.
 
“We will provide the Parliament with the detail of the required secondary legislation at an early stage in the new session and I expect the legislative process to get underway shortly thereafter.”