MSPs to work longer hours due to added Brexit workload

The Scottish Parliament could start sitting for longer hours and bring in extra staff to deal with the extra workload expected by the Brexit process.

The debating chamber of Holyrood. Picture: Toby Williams

Thousands of UK laws will need to be scrutinised as the nation seeks to disentangle itself from the European Union in the years ahead and it is expected to be the biggest challenge which the Parliament has faced in the 18 years since devolution.

Holyrood normally only sits on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, with mornings taken up by committee business getting under way between 9am and 10am. Afternoon business in the main debating chamber generally finishes at 5.30pm, but can sit longer. But a report by Holyrood’s assistant chief executive Ken Hughes states: “The overall impact of these extra scrutiny demands should not be underestimated.”

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

The Commons’ procedures committee has warned that it is potentially one of the “largest legislative projects ever undertaken in the UK.”

Holyrood business chiefs are now being asked to consider a review of the current committee structure as these are likely to face the “heaviest scrutiny burden” from the Brexit demands, Mr Hughes’ report says. They will also look at the prospect of bringing in extra staff, as well as more academics and experts to help ease the looming Brexit workload.

The prospect of “sitting times being expanded” is also being examined which is likely to mean late night sessions for MSPs. It is less likely that Parliament would sit on Mondays and Fridays, as MSPs are keen protect this time for constituency business.

The UK government has proposed that Brexit is likely to lead to an increase in the decision making powers of the Scottish Parliament.

However, there some powers which currently sit at Holyrood and other devolved administrations which could be exercised at UK level in the aftermath of the repatriation of powers, to ensure UK frameworks replace EU frameworks in areas such as such as farming regulation.

Other legislation, such as the Great Repeal Bill which returns power from Brussels to Westminster, will also require a vote in Holyrood as these impact on devolved areas. But although MSPs can vote such legislation down, they do not have a legal veto meaning Westminster could overrule objections from Holyrood.