Cabinet Office minister denies Brexit plan amounts to ‘Whitehall devolution power grab’
Scotland’s Brexit minister has warned that ‘serious and significant’ changes to devolution plans needed
Cabinet Office minister Damian Green has insisted that the government’s plan for Brexit do not amount to a power grab from the Scottish Parliament after Holyrood ministers raised concerns about the impact of EU exit on the devolution settlement.
Following a meeting with Green yesterday, Scotland’s Brexit minister Michael Russell said Westminster needs to make “serious and significant” changes to post-EU devolution plans to win the support of the Scottish Parliament for the EU Withdrawal Bill.
Holyrood ministers have argued that UK plans to take powers from Brussels over agriculture, fishing and the environment to London amount to a “power grab”, given control over most of those areas is currently devolved.
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Russell added that, while the Scottish Government accepts it lacks the power to block Brexit, any attempt to override Scottish parliamentary consent would be a “direct threat to devolution”.
“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,” he said.
“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.
“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.”
However, Green said that the government was committed to granting further powers to Scotlans as a result of Brexit and had “absolutely the opposite of the intention of a power grab”.
“Obviously there are issues on which the UK government and the Scottish government place a different emphasis,” he said.
“But we agreed that we need to work first of all on the principles.
“We agree that we want to give more powers at the end of this process to the Scottish government and the Scottish parliament and we agree that keeping free trade within the UK to enhance the prosperity in Scotland and the rest of the UK has to be a really important outcome of Brexit.”
Asked about the “power grab” claims, Green said: “I hope as these talks go on we will be able to convince them that there is absolutely the opposite of the intention of a power grab.
“We want more powers to come to the devolved administrations. That has to be done in the context of keeping free trade within the United Kingdom, but we've agreed more talks in a few weeks' time.”
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