Brexit minister Mike Russell calls for protection of Holyrood consent

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Scotland’s Brexit minister Michael Russell said the requirement of Holyrood consent for Westminster legislation on devolved matters should be embedded in law.

Mr Russell made the suggestion today as he called for urgent talks with the UK Government after MPs approved parts of the EU Withdrawal Bill related to devolution with less than 20 minutes of debate.

Scotland's Brexit minister Michael Russell has called for the protection of Holyrood consent. Picture: Scottish Government

Scotland's Brexit minister Michael Russell has called for the protection of Holyrood consent. Picture: Scottish Government

Mike Russell insisted the legislation “still contains unacceptable provisions” as he accused Westminster of ignoring Holyrood’s unprecedented vote against granting formal consent for the Bill.

He hit out at the “unhelpful” and “contentious” attitude of the Conservatives to the issue and said as a result, “we cannot, and devolution cannot, continue with a business-as-usual approach”.

Mr Russell said “urgent discussions” must now take place with Westminster over how to “protect” the Sewel Convention – a key part of the UK’s constitutional set-up that states the UK Parliament will not normally legislate in devolved areas without the consent of Holyrood.

He said: “It is time to look again at how we can embed the requirement for the Scottish Parliament’s consent in law.   

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“If legislation at Westminster is required to give the people of Scotland the assurance they need on that matter, then we would expect/demand that would swiftly follow.”

Mr Russell added there should be new “robust” intergovernmental processes and suggested the structure of the Joint Ministerial Council could be put in agreed legislation, with enforceable rules including ones governing dispute resolution.

He spoke out amid the ongoing deadlock between the Scottish and UK governments over the crucial Brexit legislation, which SNP ministers have repeatedly branded a “power grab”.

Green MSP Patrick Harvie suggested international mediators could be called in to help resolve the dispute.

Mr Russell appeared open to this approach.

“I think the Scottish Government would be keen to see any input that would come from a neutral source that would help us move this issue forward,” the Brexit minister said.

But Scottish Conservative constitution spokesman Adam Tomkins claimed the SNP actually wanted devolution to fail.

He said: “The SNP is manufacturing constitutional grievance to further its own aims of breaking up Britain.

“Far from being the guardians of devolution as they claim, they are seeking to be the architects of its demise.”