Scottish government threatens ‘Continuity Bill’ if Brexit legislation remains unamended

The Scottish government will press ahead with preparations for a ‘Continuity Bill’ if significant changes are not made to UK Brexit legislation, Brexit minister Michael Russell has said.

Speaking after the Joint Ministerial Committee in London yesterday, Mr Russell set out the need for a “cast iron commitment” that the EU Withdrawal Bill will be amended to protect the devolution settlement.

Mr Russell stressed that all returning powers relating to devolved matters should be transferred to Holyrood.

A Continuity Bill would ensure the devolution settlement was protected by providing an alternative to the EU Withdrawal Bill in the event of Brexit.

Mr Russell also repeated the Scottish government’s position that the whole of the UK should remain in the Single Market. But if that was not possible Scotland should, like Northern Ireland, be entitled to a special arrangement.

He said: “I am clear that all returning powers that relate to devolved areas must stay devolved after Brexit.

“We have yet to receive a cast iron guarantee that significant changes will be made to the EU Withdrawal Bill. The bill at present means all devolved powers currently exercised at EU level will be transferred to the Westminster Parliament.

“Unless significant changes are made, we will not be able to recommend giving consent to the EU Withdrawal Bill, and therefore we have no choice but to pursue the option of our own legislation – a Continuity Bill for Scotland.

“Progress has been made in discussions over UK-wide frameworks but we need some answers on how last week’s UK-EU agreement will affect their operation. Scotland also needs to have a meaningful role in the next phase of negotiations.

“Of course our preference is for the UK as a whole to remain in the Single Market and Customs Union. However, I also made clear today that if it is possible to create a special arrangement between Northern Ireland and the European Union, there is no logical reason why Scotland should not have the same rights. It would be unacceptable for Scotland to be placed at an economic disadvantage.”