The bill to give Scottish ministers powers to keep devolved Scots law aligned to EU law following the Brexit transition period has passed its final stage in Holyrood. 

MSPs approved by 90 votes to 29 (the Conservatives dissenting) the UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Continuity) (Scotland) Bill, following its stage 3 debate.

The bill provides a discretionary power for ministers to act by regulations, with safeguards for parliamentary scrutiny. There are particular provisions to ensure continuation of guiding principles on the environment in Scotland, with a new oversight body, Environmental Standards Scotland, to replace the system of environmental governance provided by the institutions of the EU.

The new body will have the power to investigate whether public authorities are failing to comply with environmental law, require a public authority to take steps to address its failure to comply with environmental law and investigate the effectiveness and delivery of environmental law by public authorities.

Constitution Secretary Michael Russell said after the vote that the bill would enable Scotland "to continue to meet the high European standards that presently serve us so well".

He added: "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.

"I am particularly pleased that, to a large extent, MSPs from across the Scottish Parliament came together to reach consensus on vital matters to ensure the bill’s safe passage today."

However Dean Lockhart for the Conservatives claimed the bill would be unable to meet its stated aims, and would result in Scottish firms having to comply with a "host of potentially conflicting regulations" including other UK law. It would "cause distortion between Scotland and the rest of the UK internal market", at a time when Scottish firms were struggling to survive under lockdown restrictions.

 

 

Click here to view the stage 3 and final debate.