POLITICS

SNP Minister Confirms Holyrood Still Minded To Block Brexit Bill After Talks

'The current proposals are a direct threat to the devolution settlement which the people of Scotland overwhelmingly voted for in 1997.'

09/08/2017 18:58 | Updated 10 August 2017

The SNP-led Scottish Government will not give the Brexit Bill its blessing, despite high-level talks today, branding it a “Westminster power grab” that is “unworkable”.

After a meeting between First Secretary Damian Green and Scotland’s Brexit Minister Mike Russell, the SNP remains vehemently opposed to the legislation. 

It is unknown if a vote against in the Scottish Parliament, which is dominated by Nicola Sturgeon’s pro-remain party, could derail Brexit but it presents a huge problem for Theresa May. 

The Prime Minister has vowed to consult with the devolved administrations over withdrawal from the bloc and hinted in the Queen’s Speech that Holyrood, Stormont and the Welsh Assembly may have a meaningful final vote. 

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Russell said today’s talks in Edinburgh were “useful” but his party will not back the Bill as he demanded Scotland gets fishing and agriculture powers post-Brexit. 

He said: “Today was a useful opportunity for an exchange of views between ourselves and the UK Government on Brexit and the repatriation of powers it will involve.

“But following today’s meeting we remain absolutely clear that, as things stand, we will not recommend to the Scottish Parliament that it gives its consent to the EU Withdrawal Bill.

“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.

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“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.”

Scotland voted by 62% to remain in the European Union and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has put forward plans to keep the UK in the single market. 

She has also issued a joint statement alongside Carwyn Jones, First Minister of Wales, claiming the devolved administrations are being sidelined. 

Russell added: “To be clear, that would not block Brexit and we have never claimed to have a veto over EU withdrawal.

“But UK Ministers should still be in no doubt – to override a vote of the Scottish Parliament and impose the EU Withdrawal Bill on Scotland would be an extraordinary and unprecedented step to take.

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Damien Green was in Edinburgh for talks with the SNP today

“What is now needed is a recognition from the UK Government that the bill as drafted cannot proceed. It should be changed to take account of the very serious concerns expressed by the Scottish and Welsh Governments.

“The current proposals are a direct threat to the devolution settlement which the people of Scotland overwhelmingly voted for in 1997.

“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.”

The UK Government has previously underlined that the UK has voted to leave the European Union and that Scotland voted to be part of the UK in the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum. 

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