Nicola Sturgeon calls for political consensus to protect Holyrood
Anniversary of devolution referendum marked by a call for parties to unite to protect the Scottish parliament from a UK 'power grab'
Nicola Sturgeon - Scottish Government
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has called for political parties in the Scottish Parliament to unite to oppose any attempts to dilute its powers.
In a speech to mark 20 years since Scotland’s devolution referendum which led to the parliament’s creation, Sturgeon called for a "new spirit of consensus".
According to the First Minister, the UK legislation to repeal EU law in its current form threatens the principles of devolution, but Scottish Secretary David Mundell has said it will lead to a “powers bonanza”.
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MPs vote on the second reading if the EU (Withdrawal) Bill tonight.
Speaking to a small audience at an event in Edinburgh, Sturgeon said: “Even though there is still disagreement – passionate disagreement – about the final destination of our constitutional journey, we should seek a new spirit of consensus to match that achieved in 1997.
“With Brexit now threatening the underpinning principle of devolution and many of our vital national interests, it is essential that we do so.”
Scottish ministers will demand for the legislation to be amended before Holyrood can give legislative consent but the process is not binding and can be ignored by Westminster.
Sturgeon said the Scottish Government is preparing a number of reports on potential powers which could be further devolved, covering employment and employability, social security, immigration and trade.
“The devolution settlement – the Scotland Act that established our Parliament – is based on the principle that everything is automatically devolved unless it is reserved,” she said.
“The Withdrawal Bill turns that principle on its head. As it stands, it will mean that devolved policy areas such as agriculture, fishing and the environment, which are currently carried out at EU level will be automatically reserved, unless the UK government decides to devolve.”
The Scottish Conservatives called the speech “shameless scaremongering”.
Paul Masterton MP said: "People in Scotland are sick to death of the first minister using Brexit to manufacture more grievance.
"She cannot preach to others about consensus while she refuses to take the threat of another referendum off the table.”
However, Scottish Labour interim leader Alex Rowley said: “Labour is the party of devolution, and we will not allow the Tories to use Brexit as a Westminster power grab.
“We will stand up against Theresa May’s plan to centralise power in the hands of Tory ministers. That is why Labour MPs from across Britain will tonight be voting against the repeal bill.
“Scottish Labour adopted federalism as our party policy in February, and will continue to look at the devolution of powers around employment, immigration and international trade.
“Twenty years on from Scotland voting for a Scottish Parliament with tax raising powers the people of Scotland quite reasonably in my view, expect our government in Edinburgh to use the powers of our parliament. The priority for Nicola Sturgeon and her government must be using the powers to address the big challenges in our NHS, in education, in the economy and in our communities."
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