Holyrood goes into overtime as MSPs consider Brexit Bill

Holyrood goes into overtime as MSPs consider Brexit Bill

MSPs at Holyrood sat late as the Scottish Government pushed ahead with plans to bring in its own European Continuity Bill.

Members of the Scottish Parliament’s Finance and Constitution Committee were in the chamber until 10.35pm discussing some of the 230 plus amendments that have been put forward to the Bill.

Despite the record late finish – it was the latest a committee at Holyrood has sat until – they were unable to conclude the Stage 2 consideration of the UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Legal Continuity) (Scotland) Bill.

Over the session, which lasted four hours and 50 minutes, MSPs agreed to two amendments from the Scottish Government’s Brexit Minister Mike Russell.

With the legislation being rushed through Holyrood on drastically shortened timescale, they will return to the Parliament at 8am on Wednesday to finish the job.

However despite the reduced time for the Bill to be consider, the Brexit Minister has insisted there was sufficient time for proper scrutiny of the proposals.

The Scottish Government has introduced the legislation amid a stand-off over the return of devolved powers from Brussels following Britain’s departure from the European Union.

Ministers from both Scotland and Wales have branded the UK Government’s EU Withdrawal Bill a “power grab” – with both the devolved administrations having brought forward their own legislation.

Agriculture, fisheries, food labelling and public procurement are among 24 devolved policy areas that Downing Street wants to temporarily retain power over following the UK’s exit from the EU, to put in place UK-wide frameworks.

Speaking about the Scottish Government’s Bill, Mr Russell said: “I can confirm that as things stand the Government is of the view that it is necessary to proceed with this legislation.

“All along, the objective of the Government, and the Welsh Government has been to reach agreement on amendments to the UK Government’s Withdrawal Bill. Sadly we haven’t yet reached such an agreement.”

The changes that the UK Government has put forward – without the agreement of Holyrood ministers – “unacceptably constrains devolved competence”, Mr Russell argued.

He added: “I remain hopeful agreement can be reached, but we’re not at that stage and this parliament needs to have a backstop. It needs to have this Bill.

“I recognise that the procedure for this Bill has been unusual.

“But there is enough time for the Bill to be properly scrutinised and that is what will take place.’”

Conservative MSP Adam Tomkins said the Scottish Government Bill was a “woeful piece of emergency legislation which will do nothing but bring this Parliament into disrepute”.

The Tory insisted the legislation contained “a number of provisions that are manifestly and straightforwardly incompatible with the requirements imposed on us in the Scotland Act”.

He added: “It’s not too late for the SNP to withdraw this Bill – it’s bad law, we should abandon it and not enact it.”

Scottish Conservatives had tabled the majority of amendments to the Bill, and a spokesman for First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “It would appear on the face of it that they have laid down a lot of amendments to take up a lot of time.”

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