Scotland is facing a “new type of devolution” as fresh post-Brexit powers come to Holyrood amid concerns over how governments are held to account.
Talks are now being staged between senior MSPs from Holyrood committees and their counterparts at Westminster to stop ministers in Edinburgh and Whitehall reaching decisions above the heads of both Parliaments.
Holyrood’s Presiding Officer, Ken Macintosh, says the devolution deal is no longer “black and white”, whereas previously control over major policy areas such as health and education fell neatly within the remit of Holyrood.
Recent years have seen partial powers in key areas such as taxation and welfare devolved. This will continue as powers in areas such as agriculture and fishing come to Holyrood.
“It absolutely is a new kind of devolution because originally the devolution-reserved divide was pretty black and white,” Mr Macintosh said.
“The principle is that everything is devolved unless it is reserved to Westminster. Everyone know where the powers were and where the divide lay. But we’ve now got shared responsibilities in any number of areas. Taxation being one of the newest, social security being one of the newest, across a number of areas.”
There have always been shared controls in limited areas, going back to food standards at the start of devolution, but as more controls were devolved following the independence referendum this approach has developed.
“It’s be more complicated and there’s no two ways about it,” Mr Macintosh added. “The difficulty is that some of these decisions and negotiations are government to government – but the parliaments are holding their individual governments to account. But Westminster’s not accountable to the Scottish Parliament, similarly the Scottish government is not accountable to Westminster. So we’re now trying to find mechanisms where we can share accountability about the decision making processes.”
MSPs from Holyrood committees met MPs and peers to talk about Brexit issues.
Mr Macintosh said: “That’s very much a new development and it’s been entered into in a very good spirit, to try and make sure that we work out how to do things.
“When the Fiscal Framework was agreed last year that was a government to government negotiation and then the deal was presented to Parliament and we suddenly realised maybe Parliament should be involved in how these governments do these things and negotiate, rather than come in at the end. We’re working at the moment to get on top of how do we actually ask questions before decisions are actually taken.”