The UK Government’s decision to legally challenge Scotland’s version of the EU Withdrawal Bill proves Westminster does not care about Scottish voters, says Richard Lyle, MSP for Uddingston and Bellshill.
That’s how all good conversations start and I hope this will be no different.
I’m delighted to have been invited by Farmers Guardian to write articles in the coming months regarding developments on Brexit here in Scotland and indeed across the United Kingdom.
It will come as no surprise therefore that in this first article I want to reflect on the Scottish Government’s Continuity Bill, what it means for all of us and our Parliament, as well as the challenges it faces.
I hope also to talk about its importance in preventing a grab of power by Westminster – keeping powers which belong to Scotland here in Scotland.
The Continuity Bill serves as the Scottish Parliament’s own version of the UK Government’s EU Withdrawal Bill, which will bring EU laws onto our own domestic statute book.
Why is this important? Because Holyrood may not give its consent to the UK’s Withdrawal Bill and the Scottish Government does not want a gap in the law here in Scotland.
Why is it necessary? Because the UK Government, despite desire and will on the part of the Scottish Government to work with the UK Government on its UK-wide legislation, failed to produce a proposal which respects the principles of devolution.
And the latest on the Bill is that following its approval at Stage Three by Parliament, the UK Government has stated it shall challenge the legislation in the Supreme Court.
This is despite the assurances of the Lord Advocate here in Scotland, who stated the wording had been specifically crafted to avoid undermining EU law while the UK was still a member.
Even if you believe this not to be true, it does not escape the fact that the Continuity Bill was passed overwhelmingly by the Scottish Parliament, and by extension those elected to represent the voices and views of the people of Scotland.
The question many have is what would happen if we didn’t have these protections. And the answer is clear – a power grab on Scotland by the UK Government.
On March 9, the UK Government published: ‘Framework Analysis: Breakdown of areas of EU law that intersect with devolved competence in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland’ and said it wants to hold on to 24 areas which are devolved to protect the UK single market.
Under the EU Withdrawal Bill, the UK will have the right to take control of any of the powers on this list. It simply confirms the UK Government’s plans for a power grab.
The publication of the categories demonstrates the threat is most immediate in key devolved areas such as agriculture – with GM crops, environmental policy, public procurement and food standards all included. Areas which many readers of Farmers Guardian will have a keen interest in.
So unless the UK bill is changed, Westminster could soon be in control of these policies, amounting to a re-writing of the devolution settlement which the people of Scotland voted for so decisively.
After all their promises to respect Scotland four years ago, it is clear to me that the Tories still think they can do anything to Scotland and get away with it.
We will do all we can to continue to protect devolution and ultimately, I believe, stand up and deliver for the people of Scotland.
I look forward to writing for Farmers Guardian again soon and I thank you once again for the invitation to share an update on the current state of Brexit here in Scotland.