Category Archives: Brexit

The Great British Power Heist

Watch this.

Over the top? Exaggerated? Think again.

You can find the actual text of the amended Bill here in Hansard. Or you can download it in  this PDF file.  You’ll find the details dealing with retained powers are in Clause 11 on page 6 of the file.

But this is the important bit:

OK, that is clear. From the day of Brexit onwards, the Scottish Parliament cannot make any changes to legislation on retained powers.

The Bill continues:

 

So that’s also clear. A Westminster Minister needs to have a consent decision from the Scottish Parliament before he can go ahead with taking forward legislation on any retained powers. Holyrood has forty days to respond to notice from the Minister. If there is no response from Holyrood the Westminster Minister can go ahead with putting motions before the House of Commons or the Lords.

Then the Bill helpfully defines what is meant by a “consent decision”:

So a “consent decision” is not a decision to consent to a piece of legislation. A “consent decision” is just a response from Holyrood to notice of proposed legislation for a retained power in Westminster whether our response is: 

(a) We’re OK with this

(b) We’re not OK with this.

or

(c) We have agreed a motion which refuses consent to your proposed legislation

In other words it doesn’t matter one iota what the Scottish Parliament wants, says, refuses,  or how it votes on any area of the retained powers, Westminster can go ahead anyway and put its proposals to the vote in the Commons and the Lords.

Westminster can lay such proposals for a period of two years after Brexit and any regulations which are passed in that time will remain in force for five years after they come into force. After that – so that’s seven years after Brexit – any regulations can be revoked by a subsequent Act in Holyrood. 

Nicola Sturgeon was asked about all this in this week’s First Minister’s Question. Ash Denham asked:

 

 

 

A Brexit Cat amongst the Scottish Parliamentarian Pigeons?

On 28 Feb 2018, the Scottish Government started the procedures for a Scottish EU Withdrawal Bill. A previous post, Holyrood’s Own EU Withdrawal Bill and Why We Need It
 has video coverage of Mike Russell, the Scottish Brexit Minister, introducing the Bill.  
 
 

However before the Bill 
proceedings began, the Presiding Officer, Ken Mackintosh, made a 
statement that in his opinion the Bill does not fall within the legal competency of the Parliament. And while the Presiding Officer does have a duty to say if he considers a Bill incompetent he has quite possibly released a Brexit Cat amongst the Scottish Parliamentarian Pigeons. Because of this the Lord Advocate of Scotland came to the Chamber to give his legal opinion. The video is further down this post.
 
Why bring in a Scottish Bill? The gist of why it’s happening comes back to the UKGov’s current failure to alter their own EU Bill at Westminster to safeguard the basis of the devolved governments of Scotland & Wales. (Possibly of Northern Ireland too but unfortunately Stormont has not been sitting since last year when DUP and Sein Fein could not agree to work together.) As it stands, neither Holyrood nor Cardiff are prepared to give their consent to the Westminster Bill. In their view, the Westminster Bill contains a “power grab” taking matters which are currently devolved back into Westminster’s remit. So both places have started the introduction of their own Bills which will bring all current EU Law covering devolved matters over into Scottish and Welsh law respectively. EU Law covering matters currently retained by Westminster will be dealt with under the Westminster Bill. 
 
Why now? Because it’s crucial that EU Law is transferred smoothly to Holyrood when UK leaves EU in March 2019 with no interruption of those Laws. If UKGov does not alter the Westminster Bill to Holyrood and Cardiff’s satisfaction then we run the risk of just such an interruption of legal continuity.. Both the Scottish and Welsh Bills prevent that possibility. But getting a Bill through takes time and if the process doesn’t start now it will be too late. If eventually UKGov alters the Westminster Bill in terms of the power grab section of it, then there will be no need for the Scottish and Welsh Bills and they will be revoked. 
 
Why is the Lord Advocate involved? It’s normal practice to take legal advice before introducing any Bill that Holyrood is competent to deal with it.  It needs to relate to something that is within Holyrood’s remit. The Lord Advocate (LA), James Wolff, was asked and gave his view on this Bill that it is within the legislative competence of Parliament.
 
What’s not normal is for him to come to the Chamber. This is unprecedented. He’s doing it because of the Presiding Officer’s very unexpected declaration. The Bill can still proceed but it is open to legal challenge by anyone so minded. We already know from the day before that Labour, Greens and LibDem MSPs support the bill. That only leaves the Scottish Conservative MSPs whose spokesman, Adam Tompkins, describes it as “unwelcome and unnecessary.” So it’s a fair bet that the Scottish Tories are probably going to be so minded to challenge it. But that’s for another day.
 
The video covers the Lord Advocate giving his considered opinion followed by questions deem MSPs. To make this easier to navigate through here are some times:
 
Lord Advocate’s Statement:
  • 14.11 He lays out the basics of how legal competency is decided. He also confirms that he considers it is with legal competency of the Parliament. 
  • 14.15 Any Bill has to be compatible with EU Law. Presiding Officer has said that this Bill is not so compatible. LA explains why he considers this to be wrong and why the Bill is compatible with EU Law.
  • 14.19 This Bill is modelled on UKGov Bill. If this Bill is not compatible, then neither is the Westminster Bill. 
  • 14.20 Nothing in this Bill comes into effect until we leave the EU. For this reason it is compatible and it is for this reason that the Welsh Presiding Officer has decided that it is compatible with EU and therefore that it falls within the legal competency of the Welsh Assembly

Questions from MSPs:

  • 14.22 to end.
 
 

Holyrood’s Own EU Withdrawal Bill and Why We Need It.

Why are Holyrood and Cardiff introducing EU Withdrawal Bills of their own when Mrs May has one Ring to Rule Them All (except for the DUP) in Westminster? Sorry, I should of course have said she has one Bill for the strongly and steadily united United Kingdom.  I watched the introduction of the Scottish Bill to find out more. After Mike Russell spoke on behalf of the Scottish Government there was a series of responses from party spokespeople and from individuals. The clips shown here are a breakdown of various statements and questions and each clip should play for a few minutes but in case they don’t,  then I’ve given you the start time for that question.
 
Mike Russell (photo from his website) is Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland’s Place in Europe, usually shortened to Brexit Minister. Here he tells MSPs what the Bill is intended to do, why it is necessary, and why it is urgent. (start time 16.17)
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Below: Adam Tompkins of Scottish Tories declares the Scottish Tory opposition to the Bill on the grounds of it being unwelcome and unnecessary and then  asks three specific questions of Mike Russell:
 
 

Below: Neil Findlay pledges Scottish Labour’s support for the Bill and lays the blame squarely on the shoulders on David Mundell and ruth Davidson for the current unsatisfactory situation regarding the UK Bill. He has some concerns regarding the time available to debate it. Don’t know why he apologised for his shambolic keyboard skills! (Start time 16.37)

 

Below: Patrick Harvie pledges the support of Scottish Greens, describes his view that UK Parliament has handled Brexit utterly incompetently and already eyeing up various powers to retain to themselves. He expresses his appreciation that further time for debate has been included, and asks Russell to confirm that any withdrawal of this Bill – assuming that agreement is reached with the Westminster Withdrawal Bill – will be a decision for Parliament and not only for the Scottish Government. Russell confirms that it will be a decision for Parliament. He also informs Patrick Harvie that this Bill reintroduces  the Charter of Fundamental Rights unlike the the Westminster Bill. (Start time 16.42)

 

Below: Joan McAlpine, SNP, asks for some more details about reintroducing the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. (Start time : 16.47)

 

Below: Not sure if Tavish Scott pledges Scottish LibDems support or not but he does deplore the lack of an agreement emerging from talks with Westminster. (Start time : 16.44)

 

Below: Then we get Bruce Crawford’s heartfelt reaffirmation of the  basis of devolution as set up when Holyrood was reestablished in 1998 and his request for a statement that there will be no agreement to any diminution of Holyrood’s powers.  Mike Russell does not hesitate in giving him that assurance. (Start time: 16.49)

 

Below: Mairi Gougeon, SNP, asks how Mike Russell will work with the other devolved administrations to ensure no diminishing of devolved powers. Russell speaks about the identical interests of the Welsh and Scottish Governments and regrets that no Northern Irish voice is now present at the Joint Ministerial talks in the absence of a Stormont Adminstration. (Start time: 16.52)

 

Below: Donald Cameron Scottish Tory asks something. Can’t be bothered to listen again to find out but don’t want to be accused of not including Conservative opinion.  (16.54)

 

Below: Richard Lochhead states his support for the Brexit Secretary but asked him to play close attention to any special Border arrangements that may be made for the Republic of Ireland that could leave Scottish economy at a disadvantage in international trade if we are not also part of that. (16.56)

 

Below: Two questions from SNP members Christine McElvie and Ivan McKee which give Mike Russell a chance to spell out the difference between a UK single market which he says does not exist and a UK uniform market which is what we have at the moment which has different powers in the four UK countries as required. He takes minimum alcohol pricing as an example of how Scotland in some instances diverges from UK and hence needs its own arrangements. Another example would be fracking. (time: 17.00)

 

Below: And finally Alex Neil, SNP, asks for a guarantee that the Scottish Government will fight tooth and nail any challenge by the UK Government to this Bill in the light of the Presiding Officer’s view of its lack of legal constitutional competency. (Start time: 17.03)

Experts? Bah Humbug!!

Michael Gove is famously quoted as saying – during a Brexit campaign interview with Sky News on 3 June 2016 – that “the people of this country have had enough of experts”. In fact that was the first half of a sentence which the interviewer interupted. The whole sentence was :

“I think that the people of this country have had enough of experts with organisations from acronyms saying – from organisations with acronyms – saying that they know what is best and getting it consistently wrong, because these people – these people – are the same ones who got consistently wrong.”

Gove got handsome applause from the audience for this statement. But then I don’t suppose many of them were experts… 😉

Continue reading Experts? Bah Humbug!!

Stiglitz on Brexit and on Scottish Independence

Jo Stiglitz is a Nobel Prize winner for Economics. He is also one the First Minister of Scotland’s council of economic advisers. In this BBC interview, he is pondering on Brexit. He thinks a Norway-type agreement would be best if we do leave; and on Scottish Independence: he was in favour in 2014 and thinks those arguments are stronger now given the way Brexit talks are going.

Did EU tell UK to Double Its State Pension?

So this was shared from the Facebook group ‘..uncensored Scotland’ to ‘Pensioners for Indy’ in April 2018.

I doubt that there is anything in the claim at all. I mean if that had happened, UKIP and Mr Farage would have been all over it, telling is that even though it would be very good to double pensions, we don’t need the EU to be bossing us about and we’ll make our own pension decisions thank you very much!! And probably pro-Europeans would also be all over it as proof of how benefits that EU membership bring us. 

I still can’t decide whether it’s a pro-EU meme or a Brexit meme

Continue reading Did EU tell UK to Double Its State Pension?