‘Brexit power grab claims are a fantasy’ says Lord Forsyth

Lord Forsyth said Brexit was an opportunity to fix devolution 'anomalies' and return to decision-making by ministerial committee. Photograph: 'Ian Rutherford
Lord Forsyth said Brexit was an opportunity to fix devolution 'anomalies' and return to decision-making by ministerial committee. Photograph: 'Ian Rutherford
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A senior Scottish Conservative peer has dismissed claims that Brexit legislation is a “power grab” and called on SNP ministers to “come out of the playground”.

Lord Forsyth suggested there was agreement in principle between the Scottish and UK Governments on amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill, but nationalists were refusing to sign off to boost the case for independence.

Peers begin scrutiny of the Withdrawal Bill on Tuesday, with Clause 11 still to be amended despite warnings from all parties about the risk it poses to devolution.

Lord Duncan, the Scotland Office minister, last week admitted that the bill, which currently retains 111 EU powers in devolved areas at Westminster after Brexit, will cause a “constitutional crisis” if it fails to get consent from the Scottish Parliament.

However, speaking to Scotland on Sunday, Lord Forsyth dismissed those concerns, suggesting he was happy with the bill as currently drafted. He also said Brexit was an opportunity to fix devolution “anomalies” and return to decision-making by ministerial committee.

“My understanding is that a deal’s been done and we just have a lot of posturing going on,” the former Scottish Secretary said.

“The idea that the Scottish Parliament would withhold legislative consent is fantasy. If they did, there would be a huge hole in Scottish legislation which they would have to stay up all night for nine months plugging.”

Lord Forsyth said the bill was “only deficient in the sense that the posturing by the Scottish Government has delayed an agreement, and then they had the cheek to complain that the necessary amendments were not tabled in the Commons.

“I confidently predict that the EU Withdrawal Bill will be on the statute book by the time the cherry blossom is out.”

Dismissing the row as “all egos”, he added: “When I was Secretary of State and we wanted to deal with agriculture or fisheries or employment issues, we would have a ministerial committee at which Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Irish interests, as well as those of the rest of the UK, were represented.

“There would be differing needs and issues, and the regulations would be worked out by consensus. We need to have that kind of framework in place.

“This is just process. But it’s being used by politicians who don’t like the decision of the British people to push for the break-up of the UK. It’s time they came out of the playground and sorted it out.”