May fails to allay fears of a weakened Holyrood as she pushes ahead with the hardest of Brexit options
UK PRIME MINISTER Theresa May was forced to repudiate claims that her government’s Great Repeal Bill to undo EU legislation would strip powers from the Scottish Parliament.
At prime minister’s questions (PMQs) today (25 January) May was asked by SNP MP Paul Grady what guarantees she could give that powers repatriated from Brussels after Brexit would come to the Scottish Government.
The clash came amid fears that the repeal of the 1972 European Communities Act (ECA) would see a weakening of Holyrood’s power, especially given the previous day’s Supreme Court ruling which stated Holyrood did not need to be consulted on the triggering of Article 50 tand the UK’s exit from the EU.
“Can she clarify that the Great Repeal Bill doesn’t become the great power grab?” Patrick Grady
Adressing May in the House of Commons Grady, who is MP for Glasgow North, asked: “Can the prime minister confirm that she supports the principle of the Scotland Act, that whatever is not reserved is devolved and should, therefore, be able to confirm what powers will come to the Scottish Parliament?
“And furthermore can she clarify that the Great Repeal Bill doesn’t become the great power grab?”
Theresa May responded to the line of questioning stating that no devolved powers would be taken back to Westminster.
She said: “As stated, I believe, by the secretary of state for exiting the European Union yesterday, there is no plan to suddenly take back powers.”
During her reply many on the SNP benches raised their voices in response to the tactical use of the word “suddenly”, which was construed by members as a veiled threat to the current permanence and devolved powers of the Scottish Parliament.
She added: “What we will be looking at and what we will be discussing with the devolved administrations, however, is what powers now in Europe will be divided among this house and their own.”
“As stated, I believe, by the secretary of state for exiting the European Union yesterday, there is no plan to suddenly take back powers.” Theresa May
The Scottish Government, along with SNP MPs in Westminster, have argued for an increase in the number of powers devolved to Holyrood since the vote to leave the EU in 2016. They argue that given that the Smith Commission could not anticipate the decision to leave the EU and the material change it represents, more powers are needed to shield Scotland from the effects of Westminster decision making.
The Smith Commission which was set up after the independence referendum of 2014 looked at areas of policy where more power could be given to Holyrood such as tax, welfare and trade and investment policy. However, many advocates of independence and Home Rule within the UK have argued that it fell short of the radical shift in power it promised. For example, 85 per cent of welfare policy is still decided at Westminister.
The UK Government has reiterated that it is committed to devolution. However, the ruling by the Supreme Court means it does not need to refer to the Scottish Government on what extra powers it or Holyrood require.
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