Nicola Sturgeon: Tories will pay ‘heavy price’ for Brexit bill row

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The Conservatives will pay “a very, very heavy political price” for their handling of the Brexit bill, Scotland’s First Minister has told MSPs.

Nicola Sturgeon said Theresa May’s party had effectively “ripped up” the convention underpinning devolution, and “hoped that nobody would notice”.

Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

Speaking at First Minister’s Questions at Holyrood, she said events at Westminster this week were “the most clear and powerful evidence so far” that the system does not work for Scotland.

Ms Sturgeon addressed MSPs shortly after crowds gathered outside Holyrood to protest against what the SNP claims is a “Westminster power grab”.

She said: “What we saw this week was the most clear and powerful evidence so far that the Westminster system simply does not work for Scotland.

“The Tories plan to remove powers from this Parliament without the consent of this Parliament - they ripped up the convention that has underpinned devolution for nigh on 20 years.

READ MORE: Compromise avoids Brexit defeat for Theresa May

“They did so in the most contemptuous way possible, with a 15-minute debate and no opportunity for a single Scottish MP to get to speak.

“And they hoped that nobody would notice.

“Well it turns out they can’t get away with it and I think they are going to pay a very, very heavy political price indeed and they will thoroughly deserve to.”

Ms Sturgeon said that “thanks to SNP MPs”, people had noticed and were angry.

She added: “People are angry, people are talking about it, people are expressing that anger in different ways.”

She said SNP membership had risen by 5,085 since the party’s MPs staged a walkout during Prime Minister’s Questions at Westminster on Wednesday.

They had been left outraged on Tuesday evening when amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill affecting Scotland were passed after less than 20 minutes of debate, with the only speech being from Cabinet Office minister David Lidington.

The Scottish Parliament has already voted against granting formal consent to the Bill, with Labour, Green and Lib Dem MSPs united with nationalists in that stance.

READ MORE: Reaction as SNP walk out of Commons chamber

The opposition stems from concerns Holyrood’s powers could be constrained for up to seven years as a result of the legislation, with some of the responsibilities returning from Brussels going to UK ministers instead of those in Edinburgh.

The party’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford has vowed his party will take “whatever action is necessary” to press its case, and will now work to “frustrate” Theresa May’s administration.

He told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “Together with my colleagues in government in Edinburgh there will be a very robust defence of our parliamentary democracy, our parliamentary sovereignty and the rights of the Scottish people.

“I will make sure we can frustrate as much as we possibly can what the Government are doing.”

Scottish Tory MP Andrew Bowie hit back at claims the Withdrawal Bill was a Westminster “power grab”.

He said: “Due to the legislation we passed this week 120 extra powers will be going to Holyrood, this is going to enhance the devolution settlement, not in any way restrict it.

“By walking out of the chamber in a pre-prepared parliamentary stunt he actually gave up the opportunity to hold the Government to account and actually have a debate about the very issue he is complaining he hasn’t had a debate on.”