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by Liam Kirkaldy
05 April 2019
Scottish Government to bring forward new legislation to ensure Scots law keeps up with EU rules

Image credit: Holyrood

Scottish Government to bring forward new legislation to ensure Scots law keeps up with EU rules

The Scottish Government will drop plans to introduce its emergency bill on Brexit but will still bring forward new legislation to ensure Scots law continues to align with EU rules, according to Constitutional Relations Secretary Mike Russell.

In December last year the Supreme Court ruled the majority of the Scottish Government’s EU Continuity Bill was within the competence of the Scottish Parliament when it was passed, but it cannot become law in its current form.

Supreme Court president Lady Hale confirmed the Continuity Bill did not relate to reserved matters, with the exception of one section requiring legislative consent from Scottish ministers for certain UK legislation.

However, the court said the situation had changed since MSPs voted through the Scottish bill because the UK Parliament had since passed its EU Withdrawal Act.

In a letter to Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh, Russell said ministers had “reluctantly come to the conclusion that we should not at this point move for its [the EU Continuity Bill’s] reconsideration”.

Russell added: “However we are determined to respect the choices the Scottish Parliament made when passing the Continuity Bill to the maximum extent possible and I would like to set out how we intend to do so”.

Instead of attempting to push forward with the bill, Russell outlined his intention to bring forward new legislation to ensure Scots law continues to align with EU law, to strengthen environmental protection, to examine mechanisms for safeguarding EU human rights protections, and to agree new protocols with the Scottish Parliament to give MSPs more scrutiny over Brexit legislation.

He said: “I can confirm the Government’s intention to bring back the provisions on keeping pace with EU law in new legislation. The extent to which devolved law aligns itself with the law of the EU should be a decision for the Scottish Parliament to take, not the UK Government.

“This Government is committed to no regression in standards or protections should EU exit take place, and the replacement of regulatory powers lost in consequence of EU exit will be essential to ensure that.”

A system allowing the Scottish Parliament to upgrade Brexit-related Standing Statutory Instruments has already been established, while the Scottish Government is currently consulting on maintaining the role of environmental principles in developing future Scottish environmental policy and legislation.

He said: “Following this consultation, we shall continue to develop our policy for future environmental principles and governance in Scotland. We shall put in place the legislative and institutional arrangements that will be required.

“We shall look for opportunities to legislate, taking account of the results of the current consultation exercise and any further consultation that is needed. If arrangements are required during a transition period, or under an exit without a withdrawal agreement, we shall design interim arrangements that reflect our policy established through this consultation.”

The Continuity Bill would also have retained the Charter of Fundamental Rights, but with that no longer possible, other approaches will be considered as part of the Government’s response to the First Minister’s Advisory Group on Human Rights Leadership’s report. Russell said the process will be led by a newly established national task force.

Russell also confirmed ministers are “actively considering the most effective ways to realise a commitment to have regard to the welfare needs of sentient animals in Scottish Government policy development before the end of this Parliament”.

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