Ruth Davidson’s Scottish Tories stand alone in dismissing recommendations in a parliamentary report for the UK’s Brexit bill to be changed to prevent a Westminster “power grab” after Brexit.
SNP, Labour and Green members of the Scottish Parliament’s Finance and Constitution Committee said MSPs should not approve controversial sections of the EU Withdrawal Bill which they said “cut across the devolution settlement”.
Clause 11 and Schedule 3 of the bill give UK ministers the power to undermine devolution and make changes to areas of law and policy devolved to Scotland, even if the Scottish Parliament explicitly rejects them.
The SNP, Labour and Greens want the UK and Scottish governments to be given equal power in deciding such “common frameworks” following Brexit in 24 areas. These include farm payments, food standards and animal welfare.
But the three Tory members on the committee – Adam Tomkins, Murdo Fraser and Alexander Burnett – do not want parity between the two governments and back the bill and its controversial sections on devolution.
Scottish ministers have repeatedly raised fears that the inclusion of Clause 11 could see Holyrood’s powers restricted by Westminster for up to seven years.
Committee convener Bruce Crawford said MSPs were “deeply concerned” about the bill, but that agreement could be found if it was amended to address their fears.
“There is scope for a reasonable solution to be found. If there is parity and both governments are treated equally, and both are bound by political agreement, then this can be amicably resolved,” he said.
“Our committee has reached the conclusion that Clause 11 and Schedule 3 of the EU (Withdrawal) Bill should be removed and for reciprocal political commitments to be included in the Inter-Governmental Agreement.”
The report backs the Scottish Government position which is not to recommend consent unless amendments are made to the Westminster bill concerning devolved powers. MSPs will vote next Tuesday on whether to give that consent to the legislation.
Last night Scottish Greens co-convener Patrick Harvie, who is a member of the committee, urged SNP, Labour and LibDem MSPs to stand together against “Theresa May and Ruth Davidson’s devolution demolition squad” at the landmark vote.
He said: “It’s a very positive sign the whole Scottish Parliament is united on this issue, with the exception of the Tories, who have given up on our European future and now want MSPs to give up on protecting Scotland’s interests. The parties that campaigned together to create Scotland’s Parliament must now stand together against Theresa May and Ruth Davidson’s demolition squad.
“The UK Government has made it very clear the whole process of seeking legislative consent is now a farce. Within months of promising to build the consent principle into law, they introduced this bill to put a wrecking ball through it. They are now making it very clear they don’t care one way or the other whether their Brexit crisis undermines devolution.”
Scottish Brexit Minister Mike Russell said: “The current proposals from the UK Government would mean they would have the powers to ban the Scottish Parliament from legislating on devolved areas for up to seven years without the Parliament’s consent.
“That is unacceptable. Given the support for the removal of Clause 11, I hope the UK Government will now agree to this straightforward solution. The UK Government must also make it clear they will respect the will of the Scottish Parliament when it votes on this matter next Tuesday.”
Scottish Secretary David Mundell refused to say if the UK Government would impose the legislation if Holyrood does not consent.