Scotland to stay 'aligned' with EU laws after MSPs pass Brexit Bill
The Scottish Parliament has passed legislation which would allow Scots law to remain aligned with EU rules and regulations when the Brexit transition ends in January.
MSPs voted by 90-29 in favour of the EU Continuity Bill which will mean Scotland can continue to set European standards.
Holyrood will take over responsibility in a range of policy areas from the start of next year which are currently under the auspices of Brussels, such as environmental and food standards and human rights.
The legislation passed at Stage 3 will safeguard the “guiding principles” on the environment in Scotland, according to ministers, as well as creating a new watchdog.
But it was opposed by the Tories who say that there is a lack of accountability
Scottish Government Constitution Secretary Michael Russell said the legislation was needed after the devolved administrations were frozen out of the Brexit process over the past four years by Westminster.
“The overwhelming majority of people in Scotland have consistently said they want to be in the EU and, despite Brexit, we are doing everything we can to stay close to our European partners," he said
“We have heard the ambition of the people of Scotland to retain the closest links with the EU and to continue to meet the high European standards that presently serve us so well. It is completely unacceptable that Scotland has been taken out of the EU, but this Bill makes a start, at least, on meeting those ambitions.
“It will enable us, in devolved areas at least, to maintain alignment with Europe, when appropriate and practicable to do so. The Bill’s environmental principles and governance provisions will also help us to maintain high standards, in line with the EU, and avoid an environmental governance gap in Scotland.
The legislation would sets up a new watchdog to have oversight over environmental standards called Environmental Standards Scotland. It will have the power to investigate whether public authorities are failing to comply with environmental law and to require a public authority to take steps to address its failure to comply with environmental law, as well as being able to investigate the effectiveness and delivery of environmental law by public authorities.
The Tories raised concerns that the bill would cause regulatory divergence between Scotland and the rest of the UK, which could jeopardise internal UK trade and employment and would effectively lead to Holyrood effectively becoming a "rule-taker" from laws made in Brussels.
There are also concerns over provisions in the Bill which would allow ministers to impose regulations without the need to consult MSPs at Holyrood.
Tory MSP Liz Smith said: "It is very painfully obvious that when it comes to keeping pace with EU law we will sadly not have any input into that.
"That's the principle on which we have been fighting this Continuity Bill because there are certain key principles within this which simply to not match up to the best interests of Scotland and the UK working together and that's an expectation of the public."
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