Unity among the devolved regions over the UK Government’s post-Brexit ‘power grab’ has been torn to shreds after the Welsh Government agreed to a new deal from Westminster which was rejected by the Scots.
Scotland and Wales had previously been working together to fight clause 11 of the EU Withdrawal Bill, which would see EU powers in devolved areas such as agriculture transferred to the UK Government.
After much negotiation, amendments have been tabled by Westminster which would prevent the UK holding on to those powers for more than seven years. The devolved legislatures would also need to give their consent to any changes during that time.
Scotland’s Brexit Minister Mike Russell said he had given ‘serious and respectful’ consideration to the proposals, but could not accept them.
“We as a Government are absolutely and unanimously clear we cannot support any proposal which would enable the powers of the parliament to be constrained without the agreement of the Scottish Parliament”, he added.
“The UK Government’s latest proposals continue to give Westminster the power to prevent the Scottish Parliament from passing laws in certain devolved policy areas and while we expect the amendments to include the addition of a sunset clause, the restrictions on our use of these powers would last for up to seven years, while any constraint placed on the UK Government will be purely voluntary.”
Mr Russell suggested the UK Government could remove clause 11 from the Bill, allowing the Scottish and UK Governments to agree on equal terms not to bring forward legislation in devolved policy areas while negotiations on frameworks were ongoing.
As an alternative, he proposed keeping the current system and giving the Scottish Parliament an opportunity to agree to plans to temporarily limit their power to legislate in devolved areas.
In Wales, Finance Secretary and favourite to be next First Minister Mark Drakeford was accused of ‘capitulating’ to the UK Government for agreeing to the deal.
Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood said: “By doing a backroom deal with the Tories in the UK Government, Labour Welsh Ministers are yet again reminding us of Labour’s belief Westminster is superior to Wales.”
Mr Drakeford said the agreement ensured laws and policy in areas which are currently devolved would remain devolved.