UK government ‘tore up constitutional rulebook’ with EU Withdrawal Bill debate

The UK government “tore up the constitutional rulebook” yesterday after it won a vote to limit debate on Lords amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill, leaving 15 minutes for devolution to be discussed, the Scottish government has said.

David Lidington, Cabinet Office Minister, spoke for 15 minutes on the Scottish clause and for four minutes on the Northern Ireland border.

Asked if he was “not ashamed, embarrassed and appalled” that only 15 minutes were allotted to these issues, Mr Lidington said the UK government had allowed “perfectly adequate time for debate” on them given as ministers from both governments had discussed them for many months.

Addressing the Speaker, John Bercow, the SNP’s Joanna Cherry QC MP said that when her colleague Ian Blackford MP had asked what options were available for Scottish parliamentarians to raise their concerns about the vote, the Conservative member for Bridgeside, Ian Liddell-Grainger, had shouted “suicide”.

Mr Bercow said he judged that to be “distasteful”, adding, however, that “it is almost certainly not disorderly” in the context in which it was used.

In protest at events yesterday Mr Blackford refused to be seated this afternoon when ordered by Mr Bercow and was thrown out of the chamber, prompting SNP MPs to walk out en masse during Prime Minister’s Questions.

Brexit minister Michael Russell said in a statement yesterday: “For almost 20 years, decisions made by the Scottish Parliament on issues affecting devolution have been final. Today, the UK government tore up the constitutional rule-book and imposed its will in the face of an overwhelming vote in the Scottish Parliament.

“The fact that they railroaded this measure through with no time for speeches from anyone other than the UK government minister shows utter contempt for Scottish democracy. This is a dark day for devolution.”

He added: “Forcing through a law that could freeze the powers of the Parliament for up to seven years without its consent, means our hands will be tied in relation to farming, fishing, the environment, food standards and a host of other devolved area.

“The UK government today had a duty to amend the bill to respect the will of the Scottish Parliament. They failed to do so. Further Brexit bills will also require the consent of the Scottish Parliament – and yet the UK government has decided to use this moment to tear up the rules that have until now protected devolution. We will reflect on this situation carefully as we consider next steps.”