The Law Society of Scotland has said early consultation on the EU continuity bill will be crucial to ensuring clarity and maintaining stability in the law following withdrawal.

Commenting in advance of today’s evidence session at the Scottish Parliament (Wednesday, 7 March) on the UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Legal Continuity) (Scotland) Bill, Charles Mullin, convener of the Law Society of Scotland’s Constitutional Law and Human Rights Committee, said:

“The Scottish Government’s Bill arises in the context of preparations for the UK’s exit from the EU. That exit arguably will be the most significant constitutional development in recent times and will impact the economic, financial, legal, social and cultural aspects of life. 

“Since the referendum decision, our focus has been on the legal aspects of exit from the EU. We have stressed that ensuring clarity and stability in the law will be vitally important during and following the withdrawal process.

“It can be seen that, on exit, the Bill aims to provide a new legal base for the devolved areas of Scots law derived from or directly impacted by EU law at present.  It also provides Ministerial powers to modify that law so that it can operate effectively on withdrawal from the EU.  In doing so, the Bill largely replicates the UK Government’s European Union (Withdrawal) Bill and it is similarly complex, often difficult to interpret and sometimes lacking in clarity.  So we would urge the Scottish Government to be open to suggestions to improve the Bill as it passes through the Scottish Parliament. 

“We also think that the Bill should proceed at a pace that will enable the Scottish Parliament to take account of technical improvements that may be made during the passage of the EU Withdrawal Bill in the UK Parliament.  We further point to the risk that the end result of the two Bills will be that EU-sourced Scots law will be addressed differently depending on whether a particular law falls within a devolved or reserved area of Scots law under the Scotland Act.  We consider that such an outcome should be avoided as far as possible, as it would make an already complex issue more complicated for the public and those advising them.

“We further recommend that the Scottish Government should immediately begin a programme of consultation on the draft subordinate legislation which will be needed under the Bill.  The likely large number of orders, and the relatively short period for scrutiny, means that early consultation will be crucial in ensuring that current EU-sourced law can be modified as effectively as possible and thereby function properly on exit from the EU.”

Michael Clancy, Director of Law Reform at the Law Society of Scotland will be giving evidence today, 7 March,  before the  Scottish Parliament’s Finance and Constitution Committee on the UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Legal Continuity) (Scotland) Bill

Read our full briefing paper

Read the UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Legal Continuity) (Scotland) Bill on the Scottish Parliament website.

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