Nicola Sturgeon calls for Holyrood consensus over Brexit ‘threat’ to devolution

Syndicate Post image

Nicola Sturgeon has called for a new cross-party consensus on boosting the powers of Holyrood in the face of Brexit “threatening the underpinning principle” of devolution.

Scotland’s First Minister said differences should be set aside to safeguard and enhance the devolution settlement 20 years on from the 1997 vote that established the Scottish Parliament.

Marking the anniversary with a speech in Edinburgh, Ms Sturgeon warned that the UK Government’s EU Withdrawal Bill sought to “erode the settlement the people of Scotland voted for” in 1997.

UK ministers have insisted that Holyrood’s powers will be boosted by the Brexit process.

The Prime Minister said it was for the Scottish Government to make “full use” of its powers, adding that the UK Government will not “devolve and forget”.

The Scottish Conservatives accused Ms Sturgeon of using Brexit to “manufacture grievance”, arguing she could not expect consensus while the prospect of a second independence referendum remains on the table.

Ms Sturgeon said: “Even though there is still disagreement – passionate disagreement – about the final destination of our constitutional journey, we should nevertheless seek a new spirit of consensus to match that achieved in 1997.

“With Brexit now threatening the underpinning principle of devolution and many of our vital national interests, it is essential that we do so.”

The Scottish Government is to publish a series of papers making the case for extending Holyrood’s powers in areas such as employment, immigration and trade.

“The more powers our parliament has, the more we can collectively do for Scotland,” Ms Sturgeon said.

The First Minister has repeatedly warned that the EU Withdrawal Bill represents a power grab by Westminster when powers are repatriated from Brussels to London.

“The devolution settlement – the Scotland Act that established our parliament – is based on the quite genius principle, when you look back and consider it, that everything is automatically devolved unless it is explicitly reserved,” she said.

“The EU Withdrawal Bill turns that principle absolutely on its head. W estminster will decide what areas of already devolved policy will actually remain devolved in the future.

“So on the very day that we should be celebrating devolution, we are also being called upon to defend it.”

Theresa May said Holyrood had become one of the most powerful devolved administrations in the world.

“It is now for the Scottish Government to make full use of these powers to support the Scottish economy and to deliver the housing, education and healthcare services people in Scotland deserve”, she said.

“The UK Government will not devolve and forget, we will continue to work with the Scottish Government to deliver for the people of Scotland.”

Scotland Office minister Lord Duncan said the Scottish Parliament “will not lose a single one of its current decision-making powers” through Brexit, while Tory MP Paul Masterton said Ms Sturgeon was “scaremongering”.

“People in Scotland are sick to death of the First Minister using Brexit to manufacture more grievance,” Mr Masterton said.

“She cannot preach to others about consensus while she refuses to take the threat of another referendum off the table.”

Scottish Labour interim leader Alex Rowley said: “Labour is the party of devolution, and we will not allow the Tories to use Brexit as a Westminster power grab.

“That is why Labour MPs from across Britain will tonight be voting against the repeal Bill.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: ” We will talk to the SNP Government about how to handle Brexit in this parliament but we are not interested in driving a wedge between Scotland and England.”