What’s at stake in crunch talks over post-Brexit powers between Holyrood and Westminster?

Chris McQuade

What will crunch Brexit talks mean for Scotland

Scottish Government ministers holding talks with UK representatives in Edinburgh are expected to demand devolved powers are protected following Brexit.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney and Brexit minister Mike Russell are anticipated to demand the Scottish Parliament has full powers on fisheries, agriculture and the environment amongst others when the UK leaves the European Union (EU.)

Their stance comes after the UK Government’s “Repeal Bill” indicated key EU laws would transfer to Westminster – not Holyrood – when powers are repatriated from Brussels.

“We know that the UK Government has its eye on more than 100 policy areas.” Mike Russell MSP 

Speaking ahead of the meeting, Mr Russell said: “The UK Government is pursuing an extreme Brexit which will damage jobs and the economy by forcing us out of the world’s biggest market-place.

“And it is essential that they also change the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, which represents a fundamental attack on the principles of devolution.

“The bill – as it currently stands – means that Westminster would take exclusive control over significant areas of devolved policy, such as support for Scotland’s farmers and food producers and many aspects of environmental protection and control of our seas.

“We know that the UK Government has its eye on more than 100 policy areas. That is a direct threat to the devolution settlement which the people of Scotland overwhelmingly voted for in 1997.”

Common Space has looked at some of the potential key issues surrounding the talks taking place today;

Agriculture, food and drink

The EU Common Agricultural Policy covers EU laws, animal health and welfare, bans the use of genetically modified crops and pesticide control. This also includes the implementation of subsidies to farmers. The Scottish Government are seeking devolution of Agriculture after Brexit arguing that it should automatically be repatriated to Edinburgh and say any attempt to have Agriculture as a reserved power at Westminster would be a “power grab”.


The EU Common Fisheries Policy regulates fishing fleets and fish stocks. It was introduced to allow all European fishermen equal access to EU waters and compete fairly. Fisheries was devolved to Scotland under the Scotland Act 1998 when the Scottish Parliament was reconvened, but has been governed by EU law since then.

Ministers fear the UK Government will try to seize powers that should be devolved to Holyrood after Brexit. 

However, Scottish fishermen are thought to have largely backed Brexit as they believe they can take control of Scottish waters from European competitors.

Envorinment Secretary Michael Gove recently told the Danish fishing industry that their boats will be allowed into UK waters after Brexit.

The European Health Insurance Card Scheme (EHICS)

After initially saying UK residents would lose their EHICS health cards, UK Brexit Secretary David Davis is seeking to strike a deal that would allow UK residents to keep the privilege. The scheme allows residents to access cheap private medical attention should they need it whilst within the EU. The system also allows EU nationals to access the NHS is currently a devolved matter. 

Research funding

Research funding is expected to be on the agenda. A report in the Guardian in May stated Scottish universities have benefited more than the rest of the UK from EU funding.

It said: “No one yet knows whether the UK will remain a member of the EU-dominated European Research Area (ERA), launched by the European commission in 2000, with the aim of developing attractive research opportunities in Europe. Scotland’s universities take about 12% of the UK’s ERA funding – well above its 9% population share.”


The Scottish Government wants to pursue a different immigration approach to the UK’s target of reducing net migration to the tens of thousands. Scotland has an ageing population and lower immigration than the UK as a whole, and the Scotttish Government would seek to attract more migrants to Scotland. However, there is currently no sign that the UK Government would contemplate the devolution of immigration to Holyrood.

“There is currently no sign of any of the new powers we were told during the EU referendum would be coming to Scotland, such as over immigration.” Mike Russell MSP

Russell said that the Scottish Parliament would refuse legislative consent to the bill as it stands unless these issues are resolved. 

“There is currently no sign of any of the new powers we were told during the EU referendum would be coming to Scotland, such as over immigration,” he argued.

Scottish Secretary David Mundell said the Repeal Bill was only a temporary measure with devolution on the cards further down the line.

“As we’ve made clear, the bill sets out temporary arrangements that allow us to discuss areas where we will need to take a UK-wide approach and where new decision-making powers can be released to Holyrood,” he stated

Picture courtesy of UncleBucko.

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