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Scottish Government to recommend withholding consent to EU withdrawal bill

Image credit: Scottish Parliament

Scottish Government to recommend withholding consent to EU withdrawal bill

The Scottish Government will recommend that the Scottish Parliament does not give to consent to the UK Government’s EU Withdrawal Bill, as it considers the bill “will do significant damage to Scotland”, a legislative consent memorandum states.

Constitutional Relations Secretary Mike Russell today lodged the 26-page memorandum before the Scottish Parliament, and the Scottish Government has requested Holyrood be recalled on Thursday to allow for a debate on whether to consent to the withdrawal bill, before it reaches the final amending stage at Westminster.

“The Scottish Government cannot support a bill that would withdraw Scotland, as part of the UK, from the EU. It cannot recommend that the Scottish Parliament consent to a bill to give effect to a withdrawal agreement which it considers will do significant damage to Scotland,” the document stated.

“And the Scottish Government cannot support a bill of such significance being rushed through without the opportunity for proper parliamentary scrutiny in either the UK or Scottish Parliaments.

“Given the extremely limited opportunity available for both essential scrutiny, based on evidence and impact assessment, and for the public to understand the implications of the Withdrawal Agreement, the Scottish Government believes that this legislation should not be progressed. The responsible step now would be to legislate for a further referendum to allow the electorate to decide.”

The House of Commons is expected to decide on its timetabling of the withdrawal bill at around 7.30pm. A Scottish Parliament spokesperson told Holyrood the Presiding Officer “will take a decision on recall once the House of Commons has reached a view”.

“The Presiding Officer will inform business managers, and then the wider Parliament as soon as possible thereafter if parliament is to be recalled on Thursday,” the spokesperson said.

Russell said the bill was “irresponsible and disrespectful of the legislatures of these islands and the devolution settlements” and wrote to the UK Government to confirm the memorandum had been lodged for consideration by Scottish Parliament.

“It is essential that it should receive scrutiny in all of the UK’s legislatures, that there should be the proper opportunity for civil society to consider it and for citizens to understand its meaning and significance, and for all constitutional conventions, including the Sewel Convention, to be respected during its passage,” he said.

Should the Scottish Parliament decide not to give consent, the bill could be amended to recognise that decision, according to the Sewel Convention. The Sewel Convention applies when the UK Parliament wants to legislate on a matter within the devolved competence of the Scottish Parliament, National Assembly for Wales or Northern Ireland Assembly.

In May 2018, MSPs refused to consent to the EU Withdrawal Bill, accusing it of “overriding the Scottish Parliament”. However, the UK Government then decided, for the first time since devolution, to continue with the bill and legislate for matters within or affecting the responsibilities of the Scottish Parliament without its agreement.

“The UK Government has demonstrated that it is prepared to proceed with legislation relating to the UK’s withdrawal from the EU without the consent of the Scottish Parliament, even where that consent is required and sought,” the memorandum stated.

“The Scottish Government’s view is that it should not seek consent from the Scottish Parliament to UK legislation related to withdrawal from the EU, except in exceptional circumstances, unless the UK Government has indicated it will respect the views of the Scottish Parliament. The UK Government has not given such an assurance in relation to this bill.”

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