Fact check: the Tories’ EU Withdrawal Bill offer

We want an agreement with the UK government on their EU Withdrawal Bill and will continue to work for one.

But the amendments proposed by the Tory government at Westminster would mean they could ban Holyrood from passing laws in areas like farming and fishing for up to seven years without Holyrood’s agreement.

We cannot accept such a deal, which would undermine the principles of devolution Scotland overwhelmingly voted for in 1997. Here are the facts.


What is the UK Withdrawal Bill?

Scotland didn’t vote for Brexit, we all know that. But if the UK is to leave Europe, we need to ensure that laws currently subject to EU law work properly after Brexit.

The UK government’s Withdrawal Bill will: repeal the law governing the UK’s membership of the EU; establish current EU laws as UK law; and ensure powers held by the EU can be exercised in the UK.


So what’s the issue?

Some Holyrood powers – like support for farmers, control of our seas or food standards – fall within areas that have been covered by EU wide frameworks since 1999. The UK Withdrawal Bill makes a grab for these powers, claiming them for Westminster not Holyrood.

All parties on the Scottish Parliament Finance and Constitution Committee said the original Bill did not respect devolution.

So talks between the Scottish and UK government have sought to find agreement on a Bill that would be acceptable to the Scottish Parliament.


Why is the UK government’s latest offer unacceptable?

We are willing to work with the UK government on areas of law that will need UK-wide agreement after Brexit. But while these talks take place, the UK government wants to restrict our ability to pass laws in these areas.

Put simply, the Tory government’s latest offer would mean they could ban the Scottish Parliament from passing laws in certain devolved areas without our consent for up to seven years.

Worse still, Westminster would take a vote of the Scottish Parliament to REFUSE consent as consent to restrict its powers.


How can an agreement be reached?

We have offered two practical, workable approaches.

  1. The UK government could remove the part of the Bill that is unacceptable and both governments could agree not to pass laws in these areas while talks on UK-wide frameworks are ongoing.
  2. Any restriction on the Scottish Parliament’s ability to pass laws in devolved areas for a temporary time would require the absolute consent of Holyrood.

The Scottish Parliament has already passed a Scottish Continuity Bill so that if no agreement is reached Scotland’s laws are not disrupted after Brexit and a power grab is prevented.