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Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Northern Ireland Bill Another Tory Power Grab on Devolution

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A Scottish Parliament committee has warned that a proposed post-Brexit Westminster law is yet another blatant power grab on Holyrood that would allow the Tory government to bypass the Scottish Parliament and impose new laws on the people of Scotland against its will.

As proposed, the bill on the Northern Ireland Protocol – the rules which govern the arrangement between the province and the EU – means Westminster would be able to impose decisions in areas where the Scottish Government is responsible without so much as consulting with the Scottish Government before doing so.

The Tories say the proposed Westminster legislation – which is currently under scrutiny in the Lords and at Holyrood – is needed to change the Northern Ireland Protocol, which is the framework of rules that dictate Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit relationship with the European Union.

But in its report, Holyrood’s Delegated Powers Committee raised its concerns that, as the bill stands, there is no requirement for UK Ministers to seek, let alone obtain, the consent of the Scottish Parliament or Scottish Government before interfering with new laws in devolved areas.

The Committee’s main areas of concern are that the Scottish Parliament should have the opportunity to effectively scrutinise all new laws related to devolved matters, and any laws proposed by Westminster would first require the consent of the Scottish Government and not simply imposed on Scotland against its wishes.

Commenting on the report, SNP MSP Paul McLennan said:

“This proposed new law is yet another outrageous power grab on the Scottish Parliament by the Tories at Westminster.

“It would create the deeply disturbing ability of Westminster deploying what has been described as ‘super Henry VIII powers’ to do as they please in Scotland.

“That is not democracy.

“It is profoundly anti-democratic and it cannot stand.

“The UK government is introducing the law to give them powers to unilaterally change the Northern Ireland protocol because the Tories made such a catastrophe of their unworkable Brexit.

“But it doesn’t just affect Northern Ireland.

“It would allow Westminster to impose laws without the permission of the Scottish Parliament or Scottish Government.

“The Tories would not even need to consult with Scotland before deciding to change the law.

“That is a direct assault on and affront to the democratic will of the people of this country.

“Scotland has direct interests at stake in the protocol, particularly in trade and border control, and yet the UK Government has shown no willingness to engage on these issues.

“The Tories must step back from this assault on devolution and focus instead on dialogue with our European partners, who stand willing to work in partnership to find a negotiated solution over the protocol.

“We urge the UK Government to return to the negotiating table and withdraw this bill.

“It is inconceivable to think that the Scottish Government would recommend legislative consent for a bill that seeks to trample all over devolution.

“It would also negatively impact Scotland’s economy, could be deemed to break international law and could risk sparking a trade war with our fellow Europeans, which is in no one’s interests.”

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