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EU withdrawal must not see reduction in devolved competence.
The UK Government must provide greater clarity on its Brexit plans, Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland's Place in Europe Michael Russell has said, following the publication of the Queen’s Speech.
Mr Russell added that Brexit must not see the UK Government attempt to reduce devolved competence or attempt to avoid the need for legislative consent from Holyrood. The UK Government has indicated that it intends EU withdrawal would see all repatriated EU competences initially being exercised solely by Westminster, as part of a “transitional arrangement” ahead of discussions with devolved administrations on where powers should lie.
Commenting on today’s Queen’s Speech, Mr Russell said:
“The bulk of the Queen’s speech concerns the legislation necessary for the UK to withdraw from the European Union, demonstrating that as well as being harmful to the country, Brexit is set to take up all the UK government’s resources, forcing other important issues to be sidelined.
“The Scottish Government expects to be closely involved with the UK Government on proposed legislation that affects Scotland and it is time for far more transparency and openness from the UK Government and a joint co-operative approach.
“We expect that the Repeal Bill will require a Legislative Consent Motion, meaning that the Scottish Parliament will be able to express its view on Brexit. However, despite the imminent introduction of the Repeal Bill, the Scottish Government has not seen any of its draft provisions nor do we know the detail of the UK Government’s proposals. I urge the UK Government to share the bill with the Scottish Government as soon as possible”
Mr Russell added:
“The Scottish Government has been consistently clear that repatriated EU competences must return to the Scottish Parliament in areas where it is wholly or partly responsible, such as agriculture, fisheries environmental policy and justice.
“There can be absolutely no question of the UK Government attempting to reserve powers in devolved areas and the Scottish Government would not recommend the Scottish Parliament consents to such proposals. Where it is sensible or desirable to introduce a common UK framework to replace that provided by EU law, this must be achieved through agreement and negotiation.
“It is deeply concerning that the UK Government seems to intend that repatriated powers in devolved areas like agriculture should go by default to Westminster, with no clear recognition of the need for the consent of the Scottish Parliament under the Sewel Convention for such changes. This is clearly unacceptable.”
Details of The Queen’s Speech are available here https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/queens-speech-2017
A number of Legislative Consent Motions are being considered in response to the bills outlined in the Queen’s speech. These proposed legislative changes will be in addition to the Scottish Government’s own legislative programme.
The UK bills which the Scottish Government currently expects to give rise to Legislative Consent Motions in the Scottish Parliament are:
Repeal Bill – a bill which will remove the UK from the European Union, end the role of EU law in the UK, and provide powers for Ministers to ensure continued working of existing EU law and to implement the withdrawal agreement.
The bill will require legislative consent as it is planned to legislate in devolved areas and provide powers for Scottish Ministers.
A UK Government background note on the Queen’s speech (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/queens-speech-2017-what-it-means-for-you/queens-speech-2017-what-it-means-for-you) has indicated that it wants to “replicate the common UK frameworks created by EU law in UK law, and maintain the scope of devolved decision-making powers immediately after exit. This will be a transitional arrangement to provide certainty after exit and allow intensive discussion and consultation with the devolved administrations on where lasting common frameworks are needed.” This potentially alters devolved competence which would also require legislative consent from the Scottish Parliament.
Financial Advice Bill – a bill which will combine Pension Wise, Money Advice Service and Pensions Advisory Service bodies across the UK to establish a new UK-wide financial guidance body (devolved in Scotland), make provisions about the funding of debt advice in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and make provisions about the regulation of claims management.
As some of the money guidance and strategic financial capability functions of the new body will fall within the competence of the Scottish Parliament, there will be a requirement for the consent of the Parliament.
It is possible that further opportunities to legislate for Scotland by means of Legislative Consent Motions may occur in connection with other UK bills, including Private Member’s bills. Any additional proposals of this kind, together with any relevant amendments to the Government bills listed above, will be drawn to the attention of the Scottish Parliament as they arise, in line with the requirements of Standing Orders.