An “unprecedented constitutional position” - FM
First Minister urges House of Commons to amend EU Withdrawal Bill
The First Minister has written to the Speaker of the House of Commons calling for a proper debate on amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill to respect the views of the Scottish Parliament.
The House of Commons is expected to consider Lords amendments to the Bill on 12 and 13 June.
In her letter, the First Minister says she believes Scotland now faces ‘an unprecedented constitutional position, which puts at risk 19 years of constitutional convention and practice, on which devolution relies’.
The full text of the First Minister’s letter is below.
Dear Mr Speaker,
As you will be aware, clauses within the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill require the legislative consent of the Scottish Parliament, as set out by the UK Government in the Bill’s accompanying documents. The Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament wrote to you on 16 May to notify you that consent has not been forthcoming.
I understand that the House of Commons will be considering the Lords amendments to the Bill on 12 and 13 June. The Bill completed its stages in the Lords without addressing the matters that are central to the Scottish Parliament’s refusal to give consent. The Bill that has returned to the House of Commons does not therefore have the legislative consent of the Scottish Parliament to relevant provisions.
By constitutional convention and practice since 1999, the Bill cannot complete its Westminster stages in its current form without that consent.
The UK Government should now bring forward amendments to those made in the Lords that would reflect the views of the Scottish Parliament. The UK Government has not yet indicated to the Scottish Parliament or Government the actions it intends to take, if any, in respect to the decision of the Scottish Parliament.
There remains an opportunity for the House of Commons to amend the Bill to reflect the views of the Scottish Parliament, in line with well-established constitutional principles and rules. The Scottish Government has drafted amendments, attached to this letter, to make the necessary changes. I understand that these, or similar, amendments should be lodged for debate during Commons Consideration of Lords Amendments.
I note that during Questions to the Secretary of State for Scotland on 6 June, the Secretary of State, said “with your discretion, Mr Speaker, there will be an opportunity in this House to discuss clause 15 next week”. The convention on legislative consent has consistently worked until this point because the views of the Scottish Parliament have always been respected and properly taken into account in legislation. I believe we now face an unprecedented constitutional position, which puts at risk 19 years of constitutional convention and practice, on which devolution relies.
I therefore hope you will feel able to use your offices to ensure that, prior to taking this unprecedented step, the House of Commons will have the opportunity to debate these amendments and the fundamental constitutional issues involved in their consideration of the Bill.
I am copying this letter to the Lord Speaker, the Presiding Officer, the Leader of the House, and the Chairs and Convenors of the Westminster and Scottish Parliamentary Committees represented on the Inter-Parliamentary Forum on Brexit.
With kind regards,