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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Meeting of the Parliament (Hybrid) 23 June 2020 [Draft]

Agenda: Time for Reflection, Business Motion, Topical Question Time, Point of Order, Education Recovery, Local Government Finance (Coronavirus) (Scotland) Amendment Order 2020 [Draft], Economic Recovery, Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3, Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill, Committee Announcement, Parliamentary Bureau Motion, Decision Time


Contents


Committee Announcement

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh)

I am pleased to call Gillian Martin, Convener of the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee, to make an announcement on a report on the legislative consent memorandum on the United Kingdom Environment Bill.

17:49  

Gillian Martin (Aberdeenshire East) (SNP)

Thank you for the opportunity to make a statement in relation to the UK Environment Bill legislative consent memorandum. I have written to you ahead of this statement, and that letter, along with the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee’s report and related correspondence, is available on the committee’s web pages.

Members may be aware of the UK Environment Bill. It proposes a number of shared powers: powers in devolved environmental policy areas in which both Scottish and United Kingdom ministers, with the consent of the Scottish ministers, would have the power to make regulations.

Members may have heard of such shared powers before. A growing number are being introduced via the current tranche of UK Brexit bills, and a significant number of the statutory instruments that committees considered as part of the UK’s no-deal exit preparations gave UK ministers legislative powers in devolved competence. Some, but not all of those were given with the consent of the Scottish ministers.

When the committee explored the issue, both by seeking views from key stakeholders and by taking evidence from the cabinet secretary last week, we grew increasingly concerned about the number of legislative powers potentially available to UK ministers in devolved competence. Fellow parliamentarians were so concerned that we concluded that those shared powers represent a change to the devolution settlement and a significant challenge to parliamentary scrutiny, including impacting our ability to hold the Scottish Government to account on the decisions it makes on regulations put to it by the UK Government.

With no guarantee that the Parliament will have sufficient opportunity to scrutinise the content of statutory instruments, we felt unable to make a recommendation in relation to the LCM, and we agreed that I should raise the issue with all members, here in the chamber.

We believe that the bill challenges the key principle of devolution in Scotland. We believe that it should be the Scottish Parliament that makes primary and secondary legislation in devolved policy areas, and therefore that any legislation in devolved policy areas that is necessary as a consequence of Brexit should be made by us.

We feel that the LCM does not explain why UK, rather than Scottish, legislation is required or why UK ministers, with the Scottish ministers’ consent, should exercise the proposed powers. Furthermore, our ability as a Parliament to scrutinise the regulations and to hold the Scottish ministers to account would be limited.

The committee is aware that officials are revising the existing protocol, which would give the Scottish Parliament an opportunity to scrutinise the Scottish Government’s proposal to consent to the UK Government exercising significant powers. We conclude that if the revised protocol is to be meaningful, it must urgently address the issues of limited information on the SIs themselves and of limited time for parliamentary scrutiny of SI notifications.

In our report, we also propose the use of the joint parliamentary procedure for UK regulations in devolved competence. The cabinet secretary has told us that the Scottish Government has been exploring that. We believe that that is critical, as it would give the Scottish Parliament a formal role when our legislative powers are exercised by UK ministers.

The committee does not believe that the exit from the European Union should be at the expense of the devolution settlement, but that it should respect the Scottish Parliament’s role to make legislation in devolved competence and to continue to perform its full role in holding the Scottish ministers to account for how its legislative powers are exercised.