UK ministers must scrap controversial Brexit power clause - Scottish Brexit minister

Scottish Brexit minister Michael Russell gives evidence to Holyrood's Rural Environment and Connectivity Committee

The UK government must withdraw a contentious part of key Brexit legislation after the Scottish Parliament refused to grant consent, Scotland's Brexit minister has said.

Michael Russell said if UK ministers failed to remove the clause, regarding the issue of Scottish Parliament consent over devolved powers returning to the UK following Brexit, against the wishes of Holyrood they were entering "very dangerous times".

He has written to Theresa May's de facto deputy, Cabinet Office minister David Lidington, accusing him of "reluctance" to meet Scottish Parliament representatives after the majority of MSPs voted last month not to grant a legislative consent motion (LCM) for the EU Withdrawal Bill.

Speaking at Holyrood's Rural Environment and Connectivity Committee, Mr Russell said: "The constitutional position is very clear.

"If the Scottish Parliament resolves not to grant an LCM which has been requested, then the UK Government must withdraw the part of the Bill for which it has requested it.

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"I would expect and hope that the UK government will now withdraw clause 11 from the bill as they are required to by the constitutional settlement under which we live.

"If they refuse to do so, then we are going into very difficult and very dangerous times."

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His letter states: "The UK government must now explain how - not if - it proposes to reflect the views of the Scottish Parliament.

"If no alternative approach is proposed by the UK government to respond to the Scottish Parliament's views, the correct constitutional position is for the UK government to remove clause 15 (formerly 11) as it relates to Scotland from the nill."

It continues: "A failure on the UK government's part to act in line with the refusal of the Scottish Parliament to consent to the bill would wilfully undermine the devolution settlement and the confidence of the Scottish Parliament in the UK government's respect for devolution."

Mr Russell said in the letter he was "disappointed" Mr Lidington had not accepted the invitiation to meet MSPs in Scotland and would consult the other parties over his "reluctance to meet with them".

He also told MSPs Scottish ministers had been invited to contribute to the draft Brexit white paper at the Brexit ministerial forum last month, by being shown a content list and asked if they had views on any of the items.

He said they had since found out through press reports a white paper had been produced but neither the cabinet or members of the Scottish Government are able to view it.

He told the committee: "We'll go ahead in good faith and we will give the views on the items that we have in terms of the content list but whether it will make any difference, or we might as well put the piece of paper in a bottle and throw it in the sea, I don't know."

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