Brexit: Westminster acting as if devolution '˜never happened'

The UK Government is acting as if devolution 'never happened' with its handing of Britian's exit from the European Union, Scotland's Brexit Minister Michael Russell has told MSPs.

Scottish Brexit Secretary Mike Russell delivers speech to Holyrood. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

Mr Russell said the treatment of the devolved governments has become “intolerable” as he appeared before the Scottish Parliament’s Europe Committee.

He went on to suggest there may be a “conscious effort” by UK ministers to undermine the devolution settlement.

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Mr Russell was giving evidence to the committee ahead of a debate at Westminster on UK ministers’ main Brexit legislation.

The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill is designed to transpose EU law into British law so the same rules apply on the day of Brexit as the day before.

It will see EU responsibilities in devolved areas initially transferred to Westminster - a move the Scottish Government has described as a “power grab”.

Scottish Ministers have said they cannot recommend that Holyrood gives consent to the Bill in its current form.

They have also expressed dismay at a lack of consultation by the UK Government on its series of Brexit papers, some of which cover areas of devolved competence such as civil law.

Mr Russell told the committee: “It is intolerable that areas of devolved competence are being discussed, put on the table in these negotiations, without even the courtesy of a consultation with the devolved administrations.

“That is simply wrong.

“It is outrageous that a paper can be published on civil law without even a consultation with the Scottish Government or the Lord Advocate.

“It almost defies belief that such a thing would happen.”

He continued: “It is a clear breach of the constitution, unwritten constitution. The UK Government is presently operating as if devolution never happened.

“And indeed that is also what is happening with the repeal bill (the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill). The repeal bill actually is written for a set of circumstances in which devolution doesn’t exist.

“Now you do have a set of ministers whose knowledge of devolution is very, very limited, we accept that.

“But you cannot simply pretend devolution isn’t there, unless you intend to undermine devolution and indeed that may be a conscious effort now.”