SNP and Scottish Tories urge clause amendment in European withdrawal bill

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The SNP and the Scottish Conservatives have agreed that a contentious clause needs to be amended before the European withdrawal bill can proceed.

Scottish Brexit Minister Mike Russell said on Sunday clause 11 of the bill needs to be amended to restore the spirit of the Scotland Act.

His opinions were backed by Adam Tomkins, constitution spokesman with the Scottish Conservatives in an interview on the Sunday Politics programme, who said his party agreed with the move.

He said: “There is a fundamental principal on which Scottish devolution rests and has rested since its creation 20 years ago which is that everything is devolved unless it is expressly reserved.

“And that is the principle that clause 11 needs to be amended to comply with and that is our position too.”

“It is relatively easily done. This does not have to be difficult.”

Mr Tomkins said a deal could be struck on the issue after Theresa May said she was prepared to make amendments to the bill.

He said the delay was caused by some powers which were subject to UK agreements.

He added: “The reason why there is a hold-up is because it is important that some of those powers exercised by Holyrood, not all of them, are subject to UK-wide agreements, so there isn’t an inadvertent pulling apart of the United Kingdom.

“I have always said that a deal can be struck on this issue and the reason for that both the United Kingdom and the Scottish Government want to be in a position whereby Holyrood can give its consent.

Mr Russell said the point had been conceded about amending the clause but it has still to happen.

He added: “What has to happen to get to legislative consent, the UK Government have to amend the bill.

“They have to amend particularly clause 11 and remove the difficulties that clause contains. There is no other way for this bill to get legislative consent. We have been promised it and it hasn’t happened.

“The point is conceded, they just haven’t produced the amendment.”

The Scottish Conservatives, meanwhile, urged Nicola Sturgeon to back UK-wide rules on trade and immigration ahead of the publication of fresh Brexit analysis.

The party called on the First Minister to take heed of the results of a recent survey by ScotCen which found that a majority of Scots want to keep the same rules as the rest of the UK on reserved issues such as trade (67%) and immigration (63%) upon leaving the EU.

A UK Government spokeswoman said: “We want all parts of the UK to come together in support of this legislation, which is crucial to delivering the outcome of the referendum.

“Every part of the United Kingdom needs a functioning statute book. That applies as much to Scotland as elsewhere.

“Our approach remains the same: we want to achieve consensus for this essential piece of legislation that will deliver continuity and certainty.”

Scottish Labour will attempt to press the issue next week, with a motion at Holyrood “condemning the UK government’s failure to amend the EU Withdrawal Bill to protect the devolution settlement”.

Labour said every party signing the motion, including the Scottish Conservatives, would send “a powerful cross-party message” ahead of its attempts to amend the Bill in the House of Commons this week.

Brexit spokesman Neil Findlay said: “If Ruth Davidson is serious about getting this law amended, she will add her name to my motion condemning the failure of the UK government and urge her MPs to back Labour’s amendment this week.”