Following the UK Government's highly questionable manoeuvre of referring the Continuity Bill to the Supreme Court, Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland’s Place in Europe Michael Russell MSP has reiterated that Scottish Ministers are satisfied that the Continuity Bill which was passed by MSPs on 21 March with an overwhelming majority is within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament.
Both the Scottish and Welsh governments put forward their own Continuity Bills after the UK Government failed to amend Clause 11 of the EU Withdrawal Bill, which is currently in the House of Lords, and is likely to be signed off by the Queen at some point in May.
Clause 11 of the Government’s EU Withdrawal Bill provides the power to amend “retained EU law” in these areas such that they transfer from Brussels to Westminster, rather than Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast. This means the UK Tory Government would create new UK-wide legal frameworks to replace EU legislation. In this power grab, legislative powers over 111 policy areas that should be returned to Scotland will go to the Westminster instead.
However, in the absence of Scottish and Welsh backing for the EU Withdrawal Bill, the UK Government runs the risk of breaching the Sewel Convention, which states that Westminster does “not normally legislate with regard to devolved matters without the consent” of the devolved parliaments. The devolved administrations say it is essential that their continuity bills become law before the EU withdrawal bill does.
Mr Russell said:
“The Continuity Bill was passed by 95 votes to 32 in the Scottish Parliament; an overwhelming majority. Scottish Ministers are satisfied that the Bill is within legislative competence.
“The Lord Advocate will argue in the Supreme Court that it is within the powers of the Scottish Parliament to prepare for the consequences for devolved matters of UK withdrawal from the European Union.
“Our Continuity Bill is an important and necessary piece of legislation to prepare Scotland’s laws for Brexit while protecting the powers of the Scottish Parliament that people voted for.
“The Scottish Government has made clear it cannot recommend the Scottish Parliament consent to the Withdrawal Bill in its current form.
“Alongside the Welsh Government, we have always said our preference would be to reach an agreement with the UK Government to amend the EU Withdrawal Bill to respect the powers of the devolved administrations and both Governments are ready to continue meaningful talks to further discuss potential solutions.
“While we are not opposed to UK-wide frameworks in certain areas when these are in Scotland’s interests, this must only happen with the agreement of the Scottish Parliament.”