MSPs to decide if Scottish Brexit bill is emergency legislation

MSPs are expected to agree that the Scottish Government's Brexit continuity Bill should be treated as emergency legislation.

Nicola Sturgeon has insisted the controversial legislation is needed to "protect" devolution. Picture: PA

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The move, if backed, would mean the legislation would be rushed through the Scottish Parliament on a much-shortened timetable, allowing it potentially to be approved in just three weeks.

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Ministers in Edinburgh insist this is necessary as the legislation must be passed before the UK Government’s European Union (Withdrawal) Bill makes its final passage through the House of Lords.

The Scottish Government has brought forward its own Bill as an alternative to the UK legislation, amid an ongoing dispute over what devolved administrations have branded a “power grab” by Westminster.

When Holyrood agrees to treat a Bill as emergency legislation, there is no need for a committee of MSPs to first take evidence on the proposals and produce a report on them.

Instead the legislation goes straight to the chamber for MSPs to make a decision on its general principles.

Under the proposed schedule, these could be approved for the UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Legal Continuity) (Scotland) Bill on Wednesday March 7, with the legislation due to get final approval just two weeks later on March 21.

Holyrood Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh has already ruled the Scottish continuity legislation to be outside of the Scottish Parliament’s legislative authority - although First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the Government “respectfully” disagreed with that opinion.

She described the Bill as an “important piece of legislation that we need to introduce to protect the Scottish Parliament”.

However, Prime Minister Theresa May has insisted the proposals - as well as similar legislation being put forward in Wales - are “unnecessary”.