The increasing volume of Brexit-related secondary legislation is affecting the number of Scottish statutory instruments laid before the Scottish Parliament for consideration, a Holyrood Committee has reported.
In a report of its work in 2018-19, the Delegated Powers & Law Reform Committee notes the extra requirements for instruments under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, and calls for an update from the Scottish Government on the impact of the additional workload created by EU exit legislation on the domestic SSI programme.
The committee, which scrutinises SSIs from a technical perspective and reports any drafting issues to the Government or other rule-making authority, considered 243 instruments during this reporting period, compared with 279 considered in 2017-18.
Of the 243 instruments, 223 were laid by the Scottish Government and 20 by the Lord President's Private Office (LPPO), compared with 256 and 23 respectively last year.
In May this year Graeme Dey, Minister for Parliamentary Business, told the committee that prioritisation of Brexit over domestic legislation had become necessary, meaning that SSIs that were considered "non-urgent" had been paused, creating a backlog.
The committee reported 26 instruments for drafting issues this year, including five under the most serious reporting grounds – down from 11 last year. The proportion of instruments reported in 2018-19 remains unchanged at 11.5%.
Of the instruments laid by the Lord President’s Private Office, which amend court rules in Scotland, only one was reported (5% of instruments considered), down from 8.5% last year, which was itself a significant improvement from the 20.5% in 2016-17 and 45% in 2015-16.
During the reporting year, the Scottish Government laid 12 amending instruments which corrected errors in instruments that had been highlighted by the committee. Other errors remain outstanding, but ministers have given a commitment to correct those by the end of this session.
Committee convener Graham Simpson MSP commented: "While the proportion of reported instruments has remained the same, the committee is heartened by the improvement indicated by the reduced use of significant reporting grounds.
"The committee is also pleased with the continued improvement in the quality of LPPO instruments which has been remarkable in recent years.
"The number of historic commitments is continuing to fall. The committee welcomes this but suggests greater progress is needed in relation to new commitments."
He added: "The committee has also noted the continued decrease in the number of instruments laid this year and that this coincides with large volumes of EU exit legislation. EU exit SSIs have made up a significant part of SSI workload.
"The committee is interested in exploring how the demands of these instruments have impacted on the Government's secondary legislation programme."