A clear impasse has been reached between the UK and Scottish Government on the operation and meaning of the Sewel Convention, says Holyrood’s Finance & Constitution Committee.
In its report on the UK Trade Bill published today, the Committee recommends that the Scottish Parliament should not consent to the Trade Bill unless the clauses that constrain the powers of Scottish Ministers in devolved areas are removed.
This is consistent with the committee’s approach to consent to the EU Withdrawal Bill.
The committee is calling for a resolution to the impasse before the Bill reaches its final amending stage in the House of Lords.
The report recognises that while international trade is a reserved matter, the Bill may well have an impact on devolved powers in Scotland.
The committee also says it is “very disappointing” that the UK Trade Bill is silent on the role of the devolved institutions in the negotiation of new trade arrangements post-Brexit.
Finance & Constitution Committee Convener Bruce Crawford MSP said:
“This committee believes that the impasse between the Scottish Government and the UK Government in relation to the Sewel Convention needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency and ideally in advance of the final amending stage of the Trade Bill in the House of Lords.
“We are not able to recommend that the Scottish Parliament consents to the Trade Bill unless those parts of the Bill which currently constrain the powers of Scottish Ministers in devolved areas are removed.
“Our intention is to write to the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Cabinet Secretary for Government Business and Constitutional Relations requesting that they seek a solution to the impasse over the Sewel Convention as a matter of urgency.
“We also intend to take further evidence on this issue with a view to exploring possible solutions. That includes examining the proposal by our Westminster counterparts for the UK Government to set out a clear statement of circumstances under which legislative consent is not required by the Sewel Convention.”
On the terms of the UK Trade Bill, Mr Crawford added:
“We’ve heard conflicting views from witnesses on whether or not substantive changes to existing trade arrangements will be required in the coming months.
“Either way, it is very disappointing that the Bill is silent on the role of the devolved institutions in the negotiation of the new trade arrangements.”