The Scottish Parliament voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday May 15th to refuse to give consent to the UK Government’s EU Withdrawal Bill. The vote was Yes 93, No 30 with only the Conservatives voting No.
Michael Russell, Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland’s Place in Europe, in the Scottish Government said:
“The Scottish Parliament has now said overwhelmingly that this attempt to undermine devolution is unacceptable.
“The UK Government cannot ignore the reality of devolution or try to drown out what this Parliament says. They cannot pretend that no motion has been passed.”
Bruce Crawford, convener of the Finance and Constitution Committee reported that apart from the Conservative members that the committee was in agreement. Having taken evidence, its report recommended that:
” Clause 11 and Schedule 3 should be removed. Otherwise without another solution to the fundamental differences between the Scottish Government and UK Government the Committee recommends that the Parliament does not consent to Clause 11 and Schedule 3″ of the EU Withdrawal Bill.
He said there were areas which would require common frameworks across the UK once it leaves the EU. These,however, must be reciprocal agreements.REPORT ON EUROPEAN UNION (WITHDRAWAL) BILL SUPPLEMENTARY LCM
In their report the committee recognised “that fundamental differences remain between the UK Government and the Scottish Government regarding the impact of the Bill on the devolution settlement.”
“The Committee’s view is that these differences could be resolved through an emphasis on mutual trust and respect amongst governments across the UK.”
“The Committee recommends the inclusion of reciprocal political commitments in the proposed Intergovernmental Agreement as sufficient to allow the discussions on common frameworks to proceed and provide the clarity and certainty which is needed.”
In the debate Adam Tomkins, Conservative, described the process as “dancing on the head of a pin” and argued that the Scottish Parliament “will become significantly more powerful with Brexit”. This was a view which only the Conservative MSPs expressed.
He was baffled as to why “we are where we are today” and exhorted the Parliament to “rise to the challenges that Brexit presents.“
The Conservatives were isolated with their stance on the EU withdrawal Bill with all other political parties united to defend the Scottish Parliament.
Neil Findlay for Labour felt there was no need for the current stalemate if the ‘Tories had delivered the amendments to clause 11 we wouldn’t be where we are now.’
He said: “Instead of certainty all we have is confusion“. He went on to describe how Labour had been instrumental in delivering the devolved settlement and that they “stood resolute” in its defence.
He reminded the Parliament that Richard Leonard, Leader of the Labour Party in Scotland, had offered to work with others towards a resolution and that Michael Russell had taken him up on this.
“Let’s get round the table and start negotiating” he urged.
Patrick Harvie, co leader of the Scottish Greens, said it was glaringly obvious that the Scottish Tories “cannot accept the legitimacy of the Scottish Parliament”
He was astonished at the speed at which the Tories had abandoned reason and that they were ignoring the will of the Scottish people.
He reminded the Parliament that “what is not reserved is devolved” and that the Secretary of State, David Mundell was in need of consent education. He urged – “stop the demolition squad of Ruth Davidson and Theresa May.”
Tavish Scott for the Liberal Democrats was disappointed that the two Governments had not reached agreement. He described the UK Government as “the worst in living memory……obsessed with itself”.
The Conservatives had no support from any other MSPs in their arguments.
Mike Russell said that the Conservative MSPs were doing damage to those whom they should serve and went on to quote from past First Ministers and the present one saying that devolution is about how we all work together for the benefit of Scotland.
Quoting the current First Minister speaking about the Scottish People he said that the Parliament works for:
“A future for Scotland that is worthy of their dreams and their trust.”
The UK Government will now have to amend the EU Withdrawal Bill if the Devolved settlement is to be respected.
Michael Russell said:
“In line with the clear majority of people in Scotland, we don’t want to leave the EU and we are still working to find a way to secure as much as we can from our present relationship. But we accept that legal preparation for Brexit is required.
“However, the UK Government wants to take a power to restrict the competence of this Parliament. And it wants to be able to exercise this power even in the face of an explicit decision by this Parliament that it should not.
“If they now move to force on this Parliament an arrangement for restricting devolution that does not have Parliament’s consent they will do so in the full knowledge that they are breaking the twenty year old devolution settlement and operating out with the agreed constitution.
“The solution, as this Parliament has agreed, is straightforward. That is for the UK Government to remove the clause that fundamentally undermines devolution and to proceed on the basis of agreement.
“The UK Government must respect the will of the Parliament.”
You can watch the full debate here: Debate: European Union (Withdrawal) Bill – 15 May 2018
Reporter: Fiona Grahame