Holyrood to vote on withholding consent for EU withdrawal bill

15 May 2018, 07:18

Holyrood

Holyrood is set to formally refuse consent to key UK Government Brexit legislation - a move which could push the country towards a constitutional crisis.

After months of wrangling with Westminster over where powers returning from Brussels should go after Brexit, the Scottish Government has submitted a motion making clear it does "not consent to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill".

With the Greens, Scottish Labour and the Liberal Democrats having said they will join the SNP and vote against granting consent, it is certain to be passed when MSPs vote on the matter at 5pm on Tuesday.

Such a move would not prevent the UK Government from introducing the legislation - but it would be the first time Westminster has pushed through laws against the wishes of the Scottish Parliament.

However the Scottish Tories, who will vote to consent to the Bill after the UK Government made a number of changes, have called on Labour and the Liberal Democrats to join with them.

Tory MSP Adam Tomkins said: "The Scottish Conservatives will vote to give our consent to the amended Withdrawal Bill today.

"It's profoundly regrettable that we don't have a deal in Scotland to allow us to move on.

"The blame for that lies entirely with the SNP. Nicola Sturgeon has refused to compromise. It's not in Scotland's interests that the SNP prefers picking fights to making a deal."

He added: "It's obvious that the Greens will, as always, back the SNP today.

"But we would appeal to Scottish Labour and Scottish Liberal Democrat MSPs to think hard before siding with the nationalists."

But Scottish Labour's Brexit spokesman Neil Findlay said: "As the party that delivered devolution Labour will always seek to defend and strengthen it.

"The problems with clause 15, formally clause 11, mean that Labour will vote against the principle of legislative consent for the EU Withdrawal Bill at Holyrood today."

He added the Tories' "shambolic handling" of matters meant the issue could be resolved in the Supreme Court - where judges will rule if the Scottish Government's alternative Continuity Bill falls within Holyrood's legislative competence.

Scottish Green co-convener Patrick Harvie was also clear his party's MSPs would "not consent to the UK Government's assault on the powers of the Scottish Parliament".

Meanwhile Scottish Liberal Democrat Europe spokesman Tavish Scott said: "This bill has come a long way from the sorry piece of legislation that was first laid before Parliament but we still cannot support it.

"The Brexit process has been chaotic and the treatment of the devolved administrations has been shoddy."

According to Scottish ministers, the UK Bill could see Holyrood's powers constrained for up to seven years after Britain leaves the EU.

Brexit Minister Mike Russell said MSPs now had a "powerful opportunity to unite to protect the powers of devolution and make it clear we do not accept the attempt to constrain the powers of the Scottish Parliament as it stands in the current EU Withdrawal Bill".

Mr Russell stressed: "This is not some abstract issue - this covers key policy areas such as farming, food and drink, fisheries and protecting the environment.

"I have said time and again it is unacceptable that the legislation gives the UK Government the power to ban the Scottish Parliament from legislating on devolved areas for up to seven years without the parliament's consent.

"That is why I must recommend the Scottish Parliament votes against accepting the bill in its current form."