Retained EU Law: letter to UK Government

Letter from Cabinet Secretary for Constitution, External Affairs and Culture calling for UK Government to respect devolution.

Dear Kemi,

Your letters of 17 and 19 May indicated that the UK Government, through the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill, wishes to empower UK Ministers – yet again – to act in areas of policy within the competence of the Devolved Governments without their agreement.

This is a point on which the Bill requires legislative consent from the Scottish Parliament under the Sewel Convention. Nusrat Ghani, Minister for Industry and Investment Security, duly wrote to me at 15.57 on Friday 19 May asking that we seek the Parliament’s consent for the UK Government amendments to the Bill tabled on 10 May. Less than a single working day after that, however, at 15.20 on Monday 22 May, Lord Callanan told the House of Lords that the UK Government “intends to proceed with the Bill without [Devolved Government] consent”.

I cannot see how that sequence of events can be reconciled with UK Government’s claims to respect devolution. It would have been utterly impracticable for the Scottish Parliament to consider the matter over the weekend with no notice. No attempt was made to contact us before Lord Callanan’s statement. It seems to me to be clear that the UK Government had no intention of respecting the Sewel Convention or the views of the Scottish Parliament.

This Bill threatens the high standards Scotland enjoyed as an EU member before we were removed against the wishes of the clear majority of people who live here. It also demonstrates the willingness of the UK Government to undermine devolution and impose ever tighter Westminster control. Lord Callanan’s sarcastic remark to the House of Lords that  “I am sure we are all shocked to hear” that the Scottish Parliament and Senedd Cymru had withheld their consent to the Bill is a telling reflection of your attitude.

I once again call on you to respect the Scottish Parliament by amending the Bill to be consistent with devolution. Otherwise it should be withdrawn.

I am copying this letter to the Deputy First Minister of Scotland and Cabinet Secretary for Finance; Mick Antoniw, Counsel General for Wales and Minister for the Constitution; Michael Gove MP, Minister for Intergovernmental Relations; Nusrat Ghani MP, Minister for Industry and Investment Security; and Jayne Brady, Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service.

Yours sincerely 

Angus Robertson

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