The Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government need to develop a framework for proper scrutiny on decisions to align with EU law, according to a committee of MSPs.

Holyrood's Constitution, Europe, External Affairs & Culture Committee has been considering Scottish ministers’ use of regulation-making powers given to them by the European Union (Continuity) (Scotland) Act 2021 to "keep pace" with EU law, following the first draft annual report and policy statement, which the Scottish Government is required to publish under the legislation.

The draft annual report states that the keeping pace power was not used in the first year of the Continuity Act, and the draft policy statement says that the Scottish Government intends to align with the EU mainly through primary legislation, or powers it has to make regulations contained in other laws rather than though the secondary legislation making powers contained in the Continuity Act.

The MSPs have concluded that:

  • it is essential that the Scottish Parliament and civic society in Scotland can meaningfully engage with and influence Scottish Government decisions on whether or not to align with EU law;
  • the draft documents currently provide limited information to aid scrutiny of the Scottish Government’s commitment to continued EU alignment, and consideration should be given to providing a fuller picture;
  • there is an urgent need for Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government officials to work together to develop proposals to ensure effective scrutiny of the commitment to align with EU law.

Committee convener Clare Adamson MSP commented: "Transparency is key, given that aligning with EU law is a policy commitment of the Scottish Government.

"We understand that decisions on whether to align or not will be influenced by a range of factors – which may include the impact of divergence from the rest of the UK, the UK Internal Market Act and how common frameworks are operating, as well as the policies themselves.

"The Parliament and Scottish Government must now develop proposals to deliver on the Government’s commitment to a decision-making framework which will facilitate an appropriate and proportionate level of scrutiny of ministerial decisions to align with EU law.

"This should include consideration of how to ensure the involvement of businesses, local government, civic society and other stakeholders in an open and transparent way."

Click here to access the committee's views.