Indeed. That goes right back to the very process of the UK joining the European Community in the first place, when the fishing communities of Scotland were sold down the river as a bargaining chip in those original negotiations. There is a fear that that will happen again.
The final area that needs to be clarified is the Sewel convention, particularly as it relates to secondary legislation. One fear about the power grab that will come in the great repeal Bill is that the Government will take much power for themselves, through Henry VIII powers, to deal with European regulations by secondary legislation. However, secondary or delegated legislation is not subject to the Sewel convention. Concerns about that were raised by the Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament in written evidence to the Procedure Committee, which was published this afternoon. He says:
“Looking beyond the Great Repeal Bill, I would also observe that the current deadlines under which subordinate legislation is introduced in the UK Parliament would already constrict the timescale for any consequent scrutiny at the Scottish Parliament. There is a worry that any suggestion of foreshortening those deadlines may not be conducive to allowing proper oversight of any instruments that may include devolved matters.”
The consequences are profound, let alone the fact that the Supreme Court has already said that the Sewel convention is a political decision and therefore not worth the vellum it is inscribed upon.
The implications of triggering article 50 for devolution are profound. The Prime Minister said at Prime Minister’s questions today that she is listening and discussing, but now is the time for agreement and action. Perhaps the Minister could start by answering some of the questions we are raising today.