Scotland the absent: Holyrood left missing from UK brexit white paper

Nathanael Williams

UK Government fails to outline any detail on new post-Brexit relationship with Scotland

THE BREXIT WHITE PAPER, published today (Thursday 2 February) by the UK Government has come under fire for lacking any detail or substantive references to Scotland.

David Davis, the UK minister for exiting the EU, reiterated the UK commitment to “strengthening the union” that prime minister Theresa May had given in a her Brexit speech last month.

However, following the vote to trigger Article 50 last night (Wednesday 1 February) which saw only Scotland’s only Tory MP, David Mundell, vote in favour – the white paper failed to mention any powers that would be transferred from Europe to Holyrood.

The bulk of the section dedicated to the devolved assemblies went over previous meetings between ministers from the Scottish Government, Welsh Government and UK Government but was low on detail about any plans for further devolution or working together post-Brexit.

Speaking in the House of Commons David Davis said: “We have ensured since the referendum that the devolved administrations are fully engaged in our preparations to leave the EU and we are working with the administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to deliver an outcome that works for the whole of the UK.

“In seeking such a deal we will look to secure the specific interests of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as those of all parts of England. A good deal will be one that works for all parts of the UK.”

He added: “The UK and Scottish Governments are taking forward further discussions on the proposals detailed in the paper.”

“What are they afraid of? They do not have the courage of their convictions.” Stephen Gethins

However, critics point to the lack of anything new or any notification of a direction of travel in the relationship between the UK and Scottish Governments.

Yesterday, MPs voted 498 votes to 114 to approve, at second reading of the Brexit bill which would trigger Article 50. The result has left many complaining that the speed of the Brexit process and the shortness of the White paper was in stark contrast to the Scottish Government’s own white paper on Independence three years ago.

The SNP’s spokesman on Europe Stephen Gethins criticised the publication of the paper after the vote: “What are they afraid of? They do not have the courage of their convictions.”

“The question of is will there be significant changes regarding the relationship between the Scottish Government and Westminster?”

This refers to the position taken by the SNP that any changes to the arrangement between the UK and Scottish Governments would have to be supported by Holyrood giving consent.

In response, David Davis said that Scotland “cannot complain about an absence of democracy”.

“Scotland cannot complain about an absence of democracy” David Davis

The Brexit white paper makes a reference to the recommendations made by the Scottish Government, especially on staying part of the EU’s single market. However, it did not address the proposals in any way.

In addition to this Scotland or any reference to the Scottish Parliament was not referred to in the prime minister’s foreword to the document. The only references were exclusively to Britain.

The word Scotland is mentioned 19 times and the Scottish Parliament 3 times with Holyrood not making any mentions. She said: “And another thing that’s important. The essential ingredient of our success. The strength and support of 65 million people willing us to make it happen. Because after all the division and discord, the country is coming together.”

The Scottish Conservatives when contacted by CommonSpace, declined to make any remarks saying that “it was their job” referring to the UK Conservative party at UK Government.

Picture courtesy of Parliament TV

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