David Mundell refuses to say if UK will respect Holyrood's wishes on Brexit Bill

Scottish Secretary David Mundell has refused to give MSPs a guarantee that Westminster will not overrule their wishes if they withhold consent for key Brexit legislation.

Mr Mundell said he still hoped the Scottish Parliament will grant legislative consent to the UK Government's EU Withdrawal Bill.

However, senior SNP MSP Bruce Crawford, a former Scottish Government minster and the convener of Holyrood's Constitution Committee, said there was now a "distinct possibility" that MSPs would not approve the legislation.

While that would not veto the Bill, it would be the first time the UK Government had passed legislation against Holyrood's wishes.

Mr Crawford pressed the Scottish Secretary five times on what the Conservative government at Westminster would do if the Scottish Parliament fails to consent to the legislation.

However, Mr Mundell insisted he was focusing his efforts on reaching a deal with Scottish ministers.

He said: "Rather than speculating on numerous scenarios, I want to make sure we are focusing on getting agreement."

Mr Crawford told him: "Given you have not given a definitive position, I can only conclude then in these circumstances the UK Government would be prepared to ignore the will of the Scottish Parliament."

The clash took place amid the ongoing wrangle between the Scottish and UK governments over what should happen to powers currently held in Brussels when the UK quits the European Union.

Talks in London on Wednesday evening failed to reach agreement, with Scottish Brexit minister Mike Russell saying then that if MSPs do not consent to the Bill, the UK must respect that.

Mr Mundell accepted that while the originally drafted legislation "might have been seen to be too far in favour of the UK Government", significant changes have been made since then.

As a result of these, the Welsh Government, which had been united with Scotland in opposition to the Withdrawal Bill, dropped its objections.

The Scottish Parliament is expected to vote on whether or not it will consent to the legislation on Tuesday May 15.

Mr Mundell said: "I want to put all our efforts into getting an agreement with the Scottish Government, I still would like to see agreement with the Scottish Government and I would like to see this Parliament give legislative consent to our Bill."

He added: "If we get to a point where agreement hasn't been reached, then that's the point at which not just speculation, but clearly events will unfold."

The Scottish Secretary was giving evidence to Holyrood's Finance and Constitution Committee - which has previously warned the UK proposals risk damaging "the integrity of the devolution settlement in Scotland".

Questioning him on what could happen if Holyrood refused to grant approval to it, Mr Crawford said: "I recognise there is still two weeks to go but there is a distinct possibility this Parliament will refuse consent. What will you recommend to the UK Government in these circumstances?"

Mr Mundell responded: "I'm still going to give you the same answer, that I want to focus my efforts on ensuring that we do get consent."

The Tory added: "I do want to encourage the Parliament to support a legislative consent motion, but I recognise that is entirely a matter for this Parliament.

"Rather than speculating on numerous scenarios, I want to make sure we are focusing on getting agreement."

Read Full Story

FROM OUR PARTNERS