The constitutional stand-off over Brexit between Holyrood and Westminster is to be settled by the UK Supreme Court it has been confirmed.
UK Attorney general Jeremy Wright and Scotland Advocate General Lord Keen announced they are referring Holyrood's Brexit Bill to the law courts today, warning it risked "serious legal uncertainty for individuals and businesses."
Mr Wright added: "This reference is a protective measure which we are taking in the public interest. The Government very much hopes this issue will be resolved without the need to continue with this litigation”.
The EU Continuity Bill was passed by MSPs at Holyrood earlier this year, despite a warning by Holyrood's Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh the legislation was outwith the competence of the Scottish Parliament.
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The Scottish Government pressed ahead with the Bill over concerns that Westminster's own Brexit Bill - the EU Withdrawal Bill - was a power grab on Holyrood. Key Powers returning from Brussels in areas like agriculture and fishing should go to the Scottish Parliament in line with teh Scotland Act which brought about devolution, but many of these are being held by Westminster. The UK Government says this is in order to preserve the integrity of the UK internal market and avoid differing regulations north and south of the border.
Lord Keen added: “By referring the Scottish Parliament’s Continuity Bill to the Supreme Court, we are seeking legal certainty as to its competence. Given the Presiding Officer’s view at introduction that the Bill was not within the legal scope of the Parliament, we believe it is important to ask the Court to provide absolute clarity.
"In doing so we are following the process set out in the Scotland Act 1998. Particularly in the run up to Brexit, it is vital that we avoid legal uncertainty in our statute book.”
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But SNP MSP Ivan McKee hit out at the move and said Scotland's most senior legal officer, Lord Advocate Lord Wolffe, said the Holyrood Bill is competent.
He added: "The Continuity Bill is necessary because of the failure of the UK Government to respect devolution in its own legislation. It is the only means available to our parliament to protect devolution and prepare Scotland’s laws for Brexit, and the Lord Advocate — Scotland’s most senior law officer — has made clear he considers the bill to be competent.
“However, the Tories have made clear from their actions that they intend to use Brexit to undermine devolution, to centralise power in Westminster and to worsen Scotland’s democratic deficit."