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Further progress needed to protect devolution

Published: 24 Apr 2018 14:36

Way forward proposed to ensure no restriction on the Scottish Parliament.

The UK Government’s EU Withdrawal Bill will continue to “enable the powers of the Scottish Parliament to be constrained ” without Parliament’s consent unless Clause 11 of the UK Bill is either withdrawn or amended in line with the existing devolved settlement,  Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland’s Place in Europe Michael Russell said today.

Mr Russell confirmed that following negotiations and progress in a number of areas the issue of parliamentary consent remains unresolved. The First Minister has today written to the Prime Minister setting out the remaining concerns.

Under amendments expected to be lodged by the UK Government the powers of the Scottish Parliament could be constrained for up to seven years without parliament’s consent.

Indicating that the Scottish Government will publish a legislative consent memorandum later this week highlighting the changes to the EU withdrawal bill and that discussions are expected to continue with the UK Government next week and up to the final reading of the bill, Mr Russell also set out two options that could deliver progress on a solution.

Mr Russell said:

“Tomorrow we expect the UK Government to publish further amendments to clause eleven.

“We have given them serious and respectful consideration but we as a government are absolutely and unanimously clear that we cannot support any proposal that would enable the powers of the parliament to be constrained without the agreement of the Scottish Parliament.

“And the UK Government’s latest proposals continue to give Westminster the power to prevent the Scottish Parliament from passing laws in certain devolved policy areas and while we expect the amendments to include the addition of a sunset clause the restrictions on our use of these powers would last for up to seven years. While any constraint placed on the UK Government will be purely voluntary.

“The effect of the UK Government’s latest proposal remains this: the Scottish Parliament’s powers could be restricted without consent. This is not something the Scottish Government could recommend the Parliament approves.

“There are two possible ways forward. The first is to simply remove clause 11 from the bill.

“Both the Scottish and UK Governments could then agree, on equal terms, not to bring forward legislation in devolved policy areas while negotiations on frameworks are taking place.

 “Alternatively, we could agree to abide by the present system. In that system any regulations preventing the Scottish Parliament from legislating in devolved matters for a temporary period of time must only be introduced when that is agreed by the Scottish Parliament.

“These are practical, workable solutions to this issue that will ensure the necessary preparations for Brexit can be taken across the UK whilst protecting devolution.”