EU bill 'could hand UK ministers power to overrule Scottish Parliament'

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The terms of the EU withdrawal bill currently being scrutinised by MPs could hand UK ministers the power to overrule decisions made by the Scottish Parliament, an independent report has warned.

Analysis by the non-party Scottish Parliamentary Information Centre (SPiCE) found the Westminster legislation would “allow UK Ministers, acting alone, to make provision in devolved policy areas."

The EU withdrawal bill is currently being scrutinised by MPs

The EU withdrawal bill is currently being scrutinised by MPs

The bill oversees how powers currently held by the EU - particularly in areas such as agriculture and fisheries - will be used once Brexit takes place.

Senior UK ministers were not keen to see a blanket return of everything that would nominally fall within Holyrood's remit, amid concerns it could interfere with the workings of the UK internal market.

The Scottish Government has repeatedly argued this amounts to an effective veto over devolved administrations, something they say not only defies the spirit, but the letter, of devolution laws.

But the UK Government has insisted that Holyrood stands to gain powers as a result of the country leaving the European Union, not lose them.

READ MORE: Will Holyrood enjoy a ‘powers bonanza’ after Brexit?
Former Brexit secretary David Davis previously claimed it was unlikely UK ministers would try to claw back powers as a result of Brexit as it could boost support for Scottish independence.

The SPiCE briefing paper, published yesterday, found: "The new powers conferred on Scottish ministers are also conferred on UK ministers to act alone or jointly with Scottish ministers.

"As a result, the powers granted to UK ministers in the Withdrawal Agreement Bill extend to the whole of the UK and relate to both reserved and devolved matters. Consequently, the powers allow UK ministers, acting alone, to make provision in devolved policy areas."

Responding to the report, the SNP challenged the Scottish Tory leadership candidates to "stand against" a bill the party claimed was a "deeply undemocratic attack on the Scottish Parliament".

SNP MSP Tom Arthur said: "It's deeply troubling that Westminster has ploughed ahead with an undemocratic power grab - threatening Holyrood’s powers under the guise of Brexit.

“Far from taking powers back to Westminster, the clear view of the Scottish electorate is that more decisions should be made at Holyrood to create a fairer, more prosperous country.

"While the Tories think they can do what they want to Scotland, we must be clear that is not the case. This will be an early test in the Scottish Tory leadership battle – the candidates should stand up to their Westminster bosses, and tell Boris Johnson to keep his hands off the powers Holyrood has held for two decades."