Post-Brexit powers for Holyrood shrouded in uncertainty

The Scottish Parliament has been guided by European law since it opened in 1999 - but that is all about to change. Picture: Andrew Gilligan/PA Wire

The Scottish Parliament has been guided by European law since it opened in 1999 - but that is all about to change. Picture: Andrew Gilligan/PA Wire

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The Scottish Parliament is likely to win more powers in the wake of the UK’s departure from the European Union but opinion remains divided on what form they will take.

Significant sectors of the economy north of the border, such as agriculture and fisheries, are currently guided by EU law.

Scottish secretary David Mundell has said Holyrood could win significant new powers post-Brexit. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

Scottish secretary David Mundell has said Holyrood could win significant new powers post-Brexit. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

Social policy, such as minimum alcohol pricing, and state support for industry, must also meet strict European rules.

The current UK devolution agreement declares some matters - such as defence - are reserved to Westminster, with everything else handed to the Scottish Parliament.

Academics have suggested this means Holyrood would automatically win new powers in the wake of Brexit.

The debate was reignited this week when David Mundell, secretary of state for Scotland, told a Sunday newspaper that “one of the most significant differences that we could feel in Scotland post-Brexit is in the changes to the devolution settlement.”

The MP added: “We need to work out how the UK will work best after powers are repatriated to the United Kingdom, and which powers will be repatriated to Scotland. Whatever the circumstances, no powers will be re-reserved to Westminster.”

The National Farmers Union in Scotland is already consulting members for the post-Brexit reality.

It is hosting a series of meetings in the coming months as as it considers the future for farming and crofting in the country.

The NFU has previoulsy indicated “any drop in, or removal of, direct support could lead to a significant restructuring of Scottish farm businesses, particularly those in the most marginal areas, which would result in significant downward harmonisation on the rural economy.”

But there is scepticism from the SNP that any new powers would outweigh the negatives of Brexit.

The Scottish Government has forecast Brexit could equate to 80,000 lost jobs and a £11.2 billion hit to the economy.

“Mr Mundell’s comments must be taken with a pinch of salt unless he can provide further details of what the UK government is proposing,” said Ivan McKee MSP, a member of Holyrood’s constitution committee.

“The Tories are consistently making grand statements boasting of giving Scotland greater power, yet they contradict themselves at every turn, with Ruth Davidson and Andrea Leadsom having both offered different opinions to David Mundell over agriculture and fishing.

“Westminster is seeking to drag Scotland out of the EU against its will, and only the Scottish Government is taking effective action to protect Scotland’s interests in Europe. No vague promise of further powers for Scotland will be enough to mask the damage that Brexit will cause Scotland.

“It would be extraordinary if David Mundell was making up pledges and promises to Scotland as he went along, with no plan of whether this would actually be delivered. He must provide clarity over these comments and tell the people of Scotland what he is proposing.”

A UK Government spokesman told The Scotsman: “We are determined to secure the best possible deal for the United Kingdom as we leave the European Union.

“That deal must work for all parts of the UK, and for the UK as a whole.

“As part of this process, we are engaging fully with the Scottish Government and the other devolved administrations.”

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