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Holyrood holds out against EU Withdrawal Bill as MSPs refuse consent
The Scottish Parliament moved towards a showdown with the UK Government yesterday as MSPs refused to give legislative to the provisions of the EU Withdrawal Bill that cut across the devolution settlement.
By 93 votes to 30 the Parliament declined to give legislative consent to provisions that take powers returning from the EU in otherwise devolved areas back to the UK rather than the Scottish Government in the first place. Labour, Green and Liberal Democrat members supported the SNP's position that the bill was an unacceptable encroachment on the principles of devolution, whereas the Conservatives claimed that Scottish ministers were taking their stand as "cover" for another push for independence.
It is the first time the Parliament has refused to support legislation that the UK Government has said it will push ahead with in any event. Holyrood has passed its own alternative bill on the treatment of returning EU powers, the legality of which is set to be challenged before the UK Supreme Court in July.
The UK Government was willing to pull back on its initial blanket treatment of the powers but insists that it should retain contol of 24 policy areas in order to develop "common frameworks" across the UK. The Welsh Government accepted this approach but Scottish ministers want recognition of their right to grant or withhold consent to such arrangements.
In supporting the Scottish Government's position, MSPs added a Labour amendment calling on both Governments to convene cross-party talks in an attempt to resolve the deadlock.
Mike Russell, the Scottish Government minister in charge of the negotiations, said after the vote that he would write to his UK counterpart David Lidington, asking him to come to Scotland and "hear the concerns of all parties and to discuss with the Scottish Government and the UK Government any new ideas from any of the parties".
Earlier it was disclosed that Mr Lidington had written to the Scottish party leaders to say that the UK Government would consier any "practical variations" to the bill.
In response to the vote, Scottish Secretary David Mundell confirmed that the UK Government would continue with the bill, the progress of which legally the Scottish Parliament vote does not affect. While he was "disappointed" at the outcome, he commented: "I still think we can resolve this issue, and that remains my objective."