Bill allowing Scotland to ‘keep pace’ with EU law passes

The Bill gives Scottish ministers the ability to align Scots law with European law.

Bill allowing Scotland to ‘keep pace’ with EU law passes Mark Scates via SNS Group
Brexit: Bill allows ministers to align Scots law with EU law after end of Brexit transition.

A Bill aimed at allowing Scotland to “keep pace” with EU law on devolved matters has been passed at Holyrood.

The UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Continuity) (Scotland) Bill passed by 90 votes to 21 on Tuesday.

The Bill gives Scottish ministers the ability to align Scots law with European law after the end of the Brexit transition period on January 31.

Some MSPs have raised concerns about the powers being given to ministers by the Bill to make changes to legislation.

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Once enacted, a new body – Environmental Standards Scotland – will be created to ensure compliance with environmental law.

The Bill will also ensure EU environmental legislation will be put on the statute book in Scotland.

During debate on the Bill, Constitution Secretary Mike Russell attacked Brexit, urging the UK Government to seek an extension to the transition period, saying: “It is utterly extraordinary that the UK Government is proceeding with this madness and apparently with the support of the Tories in this Parliament.

“Let me repeat what the First Minister has said this week: please do whatever it takes, Prime Minister, to extend the period and to ensure this chaos comes to an end.

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“But it is against that backdrop, the backdrop of instability, the backdrop of chaos, that we see why this Bill is so vital.”

Tory constitution spokesman Dean Lockhart was among the voices, most from his own party, who warned against the powers being given to ministers through the new legislation.

He said: “We have before us bad legislation. There could have been a consensus on the way forward in a post-Brexit environment – a Bill that would have allowed ministers to make minor technical, non-substantial adjustments to existing legislation through the use of secondary legislation.

“Instead we have legislation that will turn this Parliament and the stakeholders of Scotland into passive rule takers.”

Labour constitution spokesman Anas Sarwar also voiced his opposition to Brexit, asking Mr Lockhart and his Conservative colleagues: “Where is the remorse?”

He added: “We should not be in this situation now. I don’t think we should be in this situation at all in terms of the Brexit process and the mess that it has caused – the constitutional paralysis it has caused – in our country for the last four and a bit years.

“For (the end of the transition period) to be happening now, at the height of a pandemic, where thousands of our fellow citizens have lost their lives and hundreds of thousands of people risk losing their livelihoods – it’s completely unacceptable and unforgivable.”