EU repeal bill needs 'significant changes', Scotland's Brexit Minister says

The Scottish Parliament is likely to vote against the EU repeal bill unless there are "serious and significant changes" to the proposed legislation, Scotland's Brexit Minister has said.

Michael Russell called on the UK Government to recognise the bill as drafted cannot proceed and said it should be changed to take account of the "very serious concerns" expressed by the Scottish and Welsh Governments.

He also said the current proposals are a "direct threat" to the devolution settlement which people in Scotland voted for in 1997.

Mr Russell was speaking following talks in Edinburgh with First Secretary of State Damian Green, which Deputy First Minister John Swinney and Scottish Secretary David Mundell also attended.

The talks focused on identifying where common frameworks are needed for powers returning from Brussels following Brexit, and areas in which both governments agree there should be a release of powers to the Scottish Parliament.

The UK Government argues these powers could then be released under the Repeal Bill, which has been described as a "blatant power grab" by the Scottish and Welsh Governments.

Both devolved administrations have said they will not recommend legislative consent is granted for the Bill in its current state.

Mr Russell 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.

"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."

Mr Russell said that would not block Brexit and said the Scottish Government has never claimed to have a veto over EU withdrawal.

But he said for UK Ministers 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."

He added: "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."

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