SNP threaten to pull out of ‘power grab’ talks after Brexit debate damp squib

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Scottish ministers have threatened to pull out of talks with the UK ­government after the SNP said it was a “democratic outrage” that post-­Brexit devolution plans were approved by the House of Commons with just 15 minutes’ debate.

Scottish ministers have threatened to pull out of talks with the UK ­government after the SNP said it was a “democratic outrage” that post-­Brexit devolution plans were approved by the House of Commons with just 15 minutes’ debate.

Michael Russell.

Michael Russell.

Last night’s vote at Westminster effectively brought a months-long constitutional row to an end, sparking outrage from opposition parties after the devolution provisions of the EU Withdrawal Bill were passed with almost no discussion.

The votes marks the first time the UK government has legislated in devolved areas without Holyrood’s consent since the creation of the ­Scottish Parliament.

READ MORE: Government avoids defeat on Brexit bill

Scottish Brexit minister Michael Russell said Holyrood was “being treated with contempt by the UK ­government” and claimed “we can’t carry on with devolution as it is now”.

Time for debate on devolution was squeezed by three hours of votes on other parts of the Withdrawal Bill. It meant that only the Cabinet Office minister David Lidington was able to speak on the contentious legislation, with a handful of brief interventions from Scottish MPs. There were claims from Labour and Conservatives that SNP parliamentarians had deliberately stalled on their way through Westminster’s voting lobbies to boost their complaints.

Ahead of last night’s result, Mr Russell said: “All the systems that are meant to work are clearly of no importance to [the UK government].

“Over the next few weeks we’ll be looking at ways in which we can say, look, we’ve got to find a new arrangement here because this present arrangement does not work.”

With talks ongoing on the joint management of new powers in areas like agriculture, fisheries and the environment between the UK and devolved governments, Mr Russell said: “I cannot imagine that we would want to co-operate on those in areas which are unsuitable for the Scottish Parliament.”

In a post on Twitter, he added: “How can any meaningful negotiation take place after that?”

SNP MPs voiced their anger on social media, with the party’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford calling it a “democratic outrage”. “We are witnessing the biggest ever attack on devolution with Scotland’s voice silenced by the Tories,” Mr Blackford said.

Labour abstained in last night’s votes because defeating the government would have seen the key clause of the Withdrawal Bill revert to an earlier version, which would have retained all new post-Brexit powers at Westminster.
In a video posted on Twitter from inside one of the voting lobbies, SNP MPs Hannah Bardell and Kirsty Blackman claimed “the House of Commons and its procedures are out of date and archaic”.

“We have to walk through a lobby, stand in a queue, and have our named checked off, all of which could be done in a couple of seconds if we had electronic voting,” Ms Bardell said in the clip.

Labour’s Paul Sweeney led complaints to the Commons speaker about the lack of time for debate, while Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine accused Scottish Conservatives of “cowardice” for backing the government’s timetable, claiming they “effectively tried to silence MPs and the constituents they represent”.

Scottish Secretary David Mundell said the UK government had made “strenuous efforts” over the past year to reach a deal with Edinburgh on post-Brexit powers. Tory Paul Masterton said First Minister Nicola Sturgeon “never wanted a deal on this, she wanted a fight. It’s pathetic.”