Constitutional Relations Secretary vows to protect Scots law after Brexit

The Scottish Government intends to bring forward new legislation to ensure Scots law continues to align with EU rules post-Brexit after it abandoned its Continuity Bill.

Constitutional Relations Secretary Mike Russell has said he wants to develop legislation to make sure there is “no regression in standards or protections” in areas including environmental protection and human rights.

It comes almost four months after the UK Supreme Court ruled the Scottish Government’s Continuity Bill could not be legally introduced.

The previous legislation was brought forward amid fears the UK Government’s European Withdrawal Act would be a “power grab”, with responsibilities the Scottish Government  believe should come to Holyrood instead going to Westminster after Brexit.

In December, Supreme Court president Lady Hale ruled the Continuity Bill was within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament in all but one area when it was passed because it did not relate to reserved matters.

But the Bill, which received the backing of the Scottish Parliament, was superseded when the UK Government passed its EU Withdrawal Bill.

In a letter to the Scottish Parliament’s Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh, Mr Russell wrote: “The extent to which devolved law aligns itself with the law of the EU should be a decision for the Scottish Parliament to take, not the UK Government.

“This Government is committed to no regression in standards or protections should EU exit take place, and the replacement of regulatory powers lost in consequence of EU exit will be essential to ensure that.”

Commenting on the Supreme Court’s decision to rule the Bill was unlawful, Mr Russell warned it had “profound implications on devolution”.

“The court held that when the Scottish Parliament passed the Continuity Bill it had the power to decide what should be done, in devolved Scots law, to protect our system of laws from the damaging consequences of EU exit,” he wrote.

“That power was removed by the UK Government’s EU (Withdrawal) Act, an Act passed without the consent of the Scottish Parliament.”

First Minister’s Questions
Patrick Harvie says the Scottish Parliament has been treated contemptuously (Jane Barlow/PA)

Scottish Greens parliamentary co-Leader Patrick Harvie said: “The Scottish Parliament has been shown contempt by the UK Government and the people of Scotland should not be expected to roll over and accept this.

“If Brexit ultimately goes ahead, the UK’s determination to overrule our stronger approach to environmental governance must not be accepted.”

He added: “The Scottish Government is under pressure to introduce a strong new Environment Bill, replacing EU environment functions and building on those protections rather than letting the UK undermine them further.

“The SNP have still not given that clear commitment and we will keep them under pressure to do so.”

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