Scottish Devolution and Article 50

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:30 pm on 15th March 2017.

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Photo of Michael Ellis Michael Ellis Assistant Whip (HM Treasury), Deputy Leader of the House of Commons 5:30 pm, 15th March 2017

There have been several meetings, as I have enunciated, and no doubt there will be more meetings to come. There is close working between the United Kingdom Government and the devolved Administrations, and ensuring that we take into account the interests of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is vital for securing a future partnership with the European Union that works for the whole of the United Kingdom. It was only a little over two years ago that people in Scotland voted decisively to remain part of the United Kingdom, in a referendum that the Scottish Government called a “once in a generation” vote. The evidence clearly shows that a majority of people in Scotland do not want a second independence referendum.

As the Prime Minister and others across the political spectrum commented following the First Minister’s speech on Monday, another referendum would be divisive and would cause huge economic uncertainty at the worst possible time. The tunnel vision that the First Minister demonstrated in her speech is deeply regrettable. Instead of playing politics with the future of our country, the Scottish Government should focus on the state of education, hospitals, the police service, jobs and the economy. The Scottish Government have significant powers at their disposal, including those under the Scotland Act 2016. We need to hear how they intend to use those powers.

As for the practical business of leaving the EU, there will be much work ahead to ensure legal certainty from the day we leave. Looking forward, the great repeal Bill will be included in the Queen’s Speech. That important piece of legislation will provide legal certainty by ensuring that wherever practical and appropriate, the same rules and laws will apply the day after we leave the European Union as did before. The Government will introduce a White Paper providing more detail in due course. The Government are conscious of the importance of that work for economic and policy operations in Scotland and the significant interest that the business and legal community and civil society generally will have in the continued smooth operation of domestic legislation.

The Scottish devolution settlement was created in the context of the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union. As we leave the EU, we will use that opportunity to determine the best place to make new laws and policies on these issues, ensuring that power sits closer to the people of the United Kingdom than ever before. As set out in the White Paper, our guiding principle will be ensuring that no new barriers to living and doing business are created within our own Union. On that basis, we will work with the Scottish Government, along with other devolved Administrations, on an approach for returning powers that works for the whole United Kingdom and reflects the interests of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Government have made it clear on numerous occasions that no decisions currently taken by the devolved Administrations will be removed from them. Moreover, we will use the opportunity of powers returning from the EU to ensure that more decisions are devolved.

The process of leaving the European Union has aroused a passionate debate about our future partnership with Europe. As a Government, we will continue to listen to all voices in that debate while weighing the evidence appropriately. We have engaged extensively with stakeholders in Scotland about EU exit, and we are committed to continuing to do so. The Government continue to believe that we will get the best deal for Scotland and the whole United Kingdom if we have a united front.