Constitution, Europe, External Affairs and Culture Committee
In December 2020 the Scottish Parliament passed the European Union (Continuity) (Scotland) Act 2021. This Act provides Ministers with powers to help meet the Scottish Government’s commitment that Scottish laws “keep pace” with future developments in EU law where appropriate. The Scottish Government has now drafted two documents in relation to these “keeping pace” powers, a Policy Statement and an Annual Report. The Committee would like to hear your views on these documents.
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The Act allows the Parliament 28 days to scrutinise both the draft policy statement and draft annual report and after the final versions have been laid, a further 28 days.
The Act requires that Ministers must publish, a statement of their policy on:
- the approach to be taken
- the factors to be taken into account and
- the process to be followed
when considering whether to use the keeping pace power.
The Scottish Ministers must, for each reporting period, prepare and lay before the Scottish Parliament a report explaining:
- how the keeping pace power has been used during the reporting period
- how that use of the power contributes or has contributed towards maintaining and advancing standards in specified policy areas
- how they intend to use the power following the reporting period;
- how their intended use of the power would contribute towards maintaining and advancing standards in these areas
- any use of the power that has been considered by the Scottish Ministers during the reporting period.
During the passage of the UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Continuity) (Scotland) Act 2021, Scottish Government Ministers indicated that:
"The purpose of introducing the UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Continuity) (Scotland) Bill ('the Bill') is to enable the Scottish Ministers to make provision in secondary legislation to allow Scots law to be able to 'keep pace' with EU law in devolved areas, where appropriate."
The Programme for Government for 2021-22 stated:
"With a view to re-joining the EU as soon as we are able to, we will preserve Scotland's good relations with the EU and implement our commitment to align with EU standards and laws, and we will affirm the need for international cooperation to solve global issues."
On 29 October 2021 the Committee launched a call for views on the draft policy statement and draft annual report. The call for views closed to new submissions on 11 November 2021. The Committee received three responses.
18 November 2021
The Committee took evidence from:
Professor Kenneth Armstrong, Professor of European Law, University of Cambridge
Mhairi Snowden, Director, Human Rights Consortium Scotland
Angus Robertson, Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, External Affairs and Culture, Scottish Government
George Macpherson, Head of Policy and Alignment, Scottish Government
Lorraine Walkinshaw, Scottish Government Legal Directorate, Scottish Government