MSPs on two Holyrood committees are currently seeking views on the Scottish Government's UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Continuity) (Scotland) Bill, as they begin their stage 1 scrutiny.
The bill's main purposes are:
- to allow Scots law to keep pace with EU law in devolved areas, where appropriate;
- to ensure that there continue to be guiding principles on the environment in Scotland, and to establish an environmental governance body, Environmental Standards Scotland;
- to continue the role and functions of the European institutions in ensuring the complete and effective implementation of environmental law.
The Finance & Constitution Committee (FCC), the lead committee on the bill, will focus on the constitutional aspects of the bill, while the Environment, Climate Change & Land Reform Committee (ECCLRC) as secondary committee will focus on the environmental policy aspects.
Among the matters to be canvassed are:
- the implications of the keeping pace power in the bill potentially leading to substantial policy divergence with the rest of the UK following the end of the Brexit transition period;
- the proposals for the Scottish Government to voluntarily maintain regulatory alignment with EU law using secondary rather than primary legislation;
- the implications of the UK and devolved governments no longer having a formal role in influencing the EU policy making process;
- any constraints which may affect the Scottish Ministers’ ability to use the keeping pace power in the ways envisaged;
- the need for clearly defined criteria to apply to assessing whether or not to replicate any particular EU law into domestic law;
- whether the four environmental principles are the right choice and whether other principles or high-level objectives should be included;
- the limit on the application of these principles and whether they should extend to all areas of policy and regulation;
- and generally, the adequacy of the impact assessments and statements including on sustainable development, equalities and human rights, and the costs associated with the provisions.