Holyrood is flexing its muscles ahead of Brexit talks

BRITAIN-EU-SCOTLAND-POLITICS-BREXIT
Green acknowledged that "in some areas there will need to be a common approach". (Source: Getty)

Talks between Damian Green and Scottish ministers today over the possibility of releasing new powers to Holyrood after Brexit concluded with no agreement.

​The first secretary of state met deputy first minister John Swinney and Scotland's Brexit minister Michael Russell in Edinburgh to discuss the outcome of the Repeal Bill, which will see EU law repatriated from Brussels to Westminster initially.

The Scottish government has warned of a Westminster "power grab" over areas including fishing, farming and the environment, but UK ministers insist many new powers will be given to Scotland.

Russell said the talks had been useful but that the Scottish government was "absolutely clear" that it could not recommend Holyrood give its consent to the EU Withdrawal Bill as it stands.

“The bill as currently drafted is impractical and unworkable. It is a blatant power grab which would take existing competence over a wide range of devolved policy areas, including aspects of things like agriculture and fishing, away from Holyrood, giving them instead to Westminster and Whitehall," Russell said.

“That means that unless there are serious and significant changes to the proposed legislation, the strong likelihood is that the Scottish Parliament will vote against the Repeal Bill."

Overriding Holyrood and imposing the EU Withdrawal Bill on Scotland would be an "extraordinary and unprecedented step to take", Russell added.

The UK government needs to recognise that the bill cannot proceed as drafted and should be changed to take account of the concerns of the Scottish and Welsh governments, he said.

“As we have made clear, we are not opposed in principle to UK-wide frameworks in certain areas – but this must be on the basis of agreement among equals, not imposed by Westminster.”

Attacking the principles of devolution

Russell issued a statement ahead of the talks claiming the Repeal Bill represented "a fundamental attack on the principles of devolution".

He said: "The bill - as it currently stands - means that Westminster would take exclusive control over significant areas of devolved policy, such as support for Scotland's farmers and food producers and many aspects of environmental protection and control of our seas.

"We know that the UK government has its eye on more than 100 policy areas. That is a direct threat to the devolution settlement which the people of Scotland overwhelmingly voted for in 1997.

"Both we and the Welsh government have made it clear we could not recommend legislative consent to the bill as it stands, and today we will make clear that changes must be made to protect devolution."

Green acknowledged that "in some areas there will need to be a common approach".

But he added: "There will be other areas where I intend that the Scottish and UK governments can make progress in identifying policy areas that could be released to Holyrood under the new legislative arrangements.

"We expect there will be a significant increase in the decision-making power of each devolved administration and we want to address this in a way which delivers certainty and continuity for people and businesses across the UK."

Related articles