FMQs: Sturgeon reiterates intention to withhold consent from Brexit bill

Nicola Sturgeon confirmed Scottish Government’s recommendation that the EU (Withdrawal) Bill should not be approved in the first FMQS of the new session of the Scottish parliament

FIRST MINISTER Nicola Sturgeon has reiterated her recommendation that the Scottish Parliament should not approve the UK Government’s EU (Withdrawal) Bill in its current form.

Confirming her position in the inaugural First Minister’s Questions of the Scottish Parliament’s new session and speaking ahead of the completion of the second reading of the EU bill on 11 Sept, Sturgeon’s remarks came in response to a question from SNP MSP for Greenock and Inverclyde Stuart McMillan.

McMillan asked what assurances she had received regarding the transfer of powers to Scotland following Brexit, saying the Brexit talks currently being conducted by David Davies showed a “complete lack of vision from the UK Government” and referring back to SNP concerns over a post-Brexit Westminster power grab.

The first minister responded: “The House of Commons issued a briefing paper on the Brexit bill last Friday. Here’s what the House of Commons briefing paper says: ‘The bill effectively re-reserves to the UK Parliament those areas of competency which have otherwise been devolved.’

“‘Re-reserved’ – that is, I suppose, polite language for a naked power grab.” First minister Nicola Sturgeon

“‘Re-reserved’ – that is, I suppose, polite language for a naked power grab,” said Sturgeon. “That is why, in all conscience, I will not say to this parliament and recommend to this parliament that we should approve this bill.

“Of course, we continue to discuss with the UK Government sensible amendments and we hope we will achieve sensible amendments,” Sturgeon added. “If that doesn’t prove possible, we’re also looking at the possibility of continuity legislation in this parliament.

“But all of these discussions would be helped if we had a UK Government that was willing to enter into them in any kind of meaningful way. There’s hasn’t been a joint ministerial committee meeting since February of this year. The papers the UK Government have been publishing, many of them in devolved areas, have been published without any consultation with any of the devolved administrations whatsoever.

“Not only is the UK Government treating devolved administrations with contempt, they are leading UK blindly off a cliff edge.” First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

“Not only is the UK Government treating devolved administrations with contempt ... they are leading UK blindly off a cliff edge. This is a UK Government that has lost its way, lost the plot, has no idea whatsoever what it is doing.”

In its current form, the EU (Withdrawal) Bill specifies that any powers on devolved issues previously under European Union control will, as Sturgeon argued, return to the UK Government rather than the Scottish Parliament or Welsh and Irish assemblies. The powers of the devolved administrations to alter current EU regulations will be frozen for an as yet unlimited consultation period, despite the fact that the same freeze will not apply to Westminster.

This latest cementing of the Scottish Government’s position follows Sturgeon’s meeting with Welsh first minister Carwyn Jones of 22 August to formulate a common strategy on Brexit between the devolved administrations. Ahead of the meeting, Jones said: “The Withdrawal Bill flies in the face of devolution and we cannot accept it in its current form”, which was, he argued, “a blatant power grab from Whitehall which is not in the interest of people in Wales and the other devolved administrations.”

Photo courtesy of the Scottish Government

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