Scotland's Sturgeon warns of 'catastrophic' no deal Brexit

Elias Hubbard
May 16, 2018

Although the Scottish Parliament has no veto over the bill, the refusal to give consent sets up an unprecedented constitutional clash between Edinburgh and London, complicating British Prime Minister Theresa May's plans for Brexit.

The devolved Edinburgh legislature voted by 93 votes to 30 to deny consent for the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, now going through the national parliament in London, which will cut political, financial and legal ties with the EU.

It is the first time the devolved Parliament has withdrawn its stamp of approval for legislation coming from Westminster.

However, Scottish Government Brexit minister Michael Russell has put forward a motion stating that Holyrood will refuse permission for the changes on the grounds it would "constrain the legislative and executive competence of the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government".

Brexit means powers that have been exercised by Brussels returning to the UK.

The Edinburgh assembly voted by more than three to one to deny consent for the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, which is now going through the national Parliament in London and is supposed to provide clarity on the legal position as Britain severs ties with the bloc.

But it has never been forced to overrule Holyrood before, and such a move could spark a constitutional crisis.

A total of 46 assembly members voted to give their consent to the parts of the bill that impact the assembly's powers.

"Any constraints placed on Holyrood's existing powers without Holyrood's consent would be a democratic outrage - and it would fly in the face of the fundamental principles of devolution".

But it would be politically unpopular and fuel the SNP's arguments that Westminster is ignoring the concerns of Scots and pursuing an English hard Brexit.

The Scottish Tories called on Labour and the Liberal Democrats to join with them in supporting the legislation rather than siding with the SNP.

As such, the Scottish Government insists all these powers should come to it, hence the claim from SNP ministers that the EU Withdrawal Bill is a "power grab".

Scottish Government ministers however fear the legislation, as it now stands, could see Holyrood's powers constrained for up to seven years after the United Kingdom quits the European Union and are demanding changes before they will give it the go ahead. MSP Ash Denham said that if Ms May's government valued devolution they would remove clause 11 from the Bill.

On that point, a Scottish government source said: "We were open to both, but I think the fundamental point that we've made ever since this bill was published is the issue of consent, that the Scottish Parliament has to agree".

"Tonight we'll see a Labour government vote with the Tories and UKIP to support Westminster's EU Withdrawal Bill", said Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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