Monday, 30 April 2018 05:46


Opposition leaders at Holyrood have voiced concerns over the UK Government’s proposed amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill, which the Scottish Government has made clear cannot be supported in their current form.

Giving evidence to the Commons’ Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee today in Edinburgh, Richard Leonard and Willie Rennie stated that the amendments tabled to Clause 11 of the Bill – allowing the UK government to act in a range of devolved areas, even in the fact of explicit opposition from the Scottish Parliament – are unacceptable. Green party co-convener Patrick Harvie also maintained his party’s position that the amendments do not respect devolution.
The SNP has called on the Labour party to back the defence of devolution against a Tory power grab, and welcomed the opinion of Richard Leonard that latest amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill “still fail to properly recognise the ’98 Act”, establishing a devolved Scottish Parliament.
The comments echo the criticisms of the amendments made by the First Minister and Michael Russell and supported by Former Labour First Minister Henry McLeish, Former Labour Health Minister Malcolm Chisholm and the STUC who have all voiced concerns over the impact of the bill, and urged parties to defend devolution.
Commenting, Ash Denham MSP said:
“The Tories think they can do anything they want to Scotland and get away with it – but they risk being completely isolated.
“All parties – aside from the Tories – now recognise that the EU Withdrawal Bill and the UK Government’s amendments have fundamental flaws, fail to respect the devolution settlement and require further compromise on the part of the UK government.
“As Richard Leonard has said, the amendments do not adequately recognise powers granted to Holyrood by Scotland Act, or the principles of devolution itself and, as Willie Rennie makes clear, Westminster having the final say is not the way to resolve a dispute when there should be a level playing field.
“The SNP has been perfectly clear: we will not have constraints on the Scottish Parliament’s existing powers imposed upon us by Westminster without consent.
“We must not allow the Tories – a party with no mandate in Scotland – to succeed in their attempts to unpick devolution, and undermine our Scottish Parliament.”
Richard Leonard at today’s Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee:
“We wouldn’t accept it [EU Withdrawal Bill as amended] because there are still more aspects of it which need to be addressed. It still fails properly to recognise the ’98 Act – the default position that powers rest with the Scottish Parliament not the UK parliament.”
“I do also take the point that Patrick Harvie makes that the definition of consent is still problematic and I think there are still knots in the bill, as it stands, that need to be untied.”
Willie Rennie: “My view: There has been some significant movement, but we still haven’t got to the [centre of the]/central issue, which is ‘how do you resolve a dispute?’ and Westminster having the final say is not a dispute resolution procedure.”
He also stated: “We need to create a level playing field across the United Kingdom for the EU withdrawal bill, and Westminster having the final say isn’t sufficient.” And that “Further compromise and agreement is required”.

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