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Constitution Secretary Mike Russell MSP said a new Bill at Holyrood will mean, on devolved matters, Scottish law can keep in line with those in Europe “when appropriate and practicable to do so”. Nicola Sturgeon’s government says its UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Continuity) (Scotland) Bill will provide for continuity of provision that would otherwise be lost with Brexit.
The discretionary power will come into effect after the transition period ends on December 31.
The Bill also includes provisions to ensure EU environment principles and governance can continue in Scotland.
A new body called Environmental Standards Scotland will be set up to ensure compliance with environmental law.
The Scottish Government’s Constitution Secretary criticised Boris Johnson’s Westminster Government for what he claimed was a lack of engagement with the devolved UK nations over the Brexit deadline.
Mr Russell said today: “It is completely unacceptable that Scotland has been taken out of the EU but this Bill will enable us, in devolved areas at least, to ‘keep pace’ with Europe, when appropriate and practicable to do so.
“It is required as a direct result of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, and is more urgent because of the UK Government’s reckless refusal to ask for an extension to the Brexit transition period.
“The Bill’s proposals on environmental principles and governance will also help us to maintain high standards, in line with the EU, in Scotland.”
He continued: “These important measures complement our Environment Strategy for Scotland vision, published in February, to help us as we protect and restore Scotland’s natural environment and strive to live within our planet’s sustainable limits.
“It proposes the creation of a new governance body – Environmental Standards Scotland – which will be able to investigate whether public authorities are failing to comply with environmental law, to take steps to ensure public authorities remedy any failure to comply with environmental law, as well as to investigate the effectiveness and delivery of environmental law by public authorities.”
These new laws will also make it much easier for Scotland to rejoin the EU after the country gained independence from the UK, should the Scottish people wish to do so.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford had previously written to Boris Johnson to request an extension to the Brexit process last week.
Ms Sturgeon believes that more time is required to complete negotiations and support businesses through recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
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However, Cabinet office minister Michael Gove confirmed there would be no extension beyond 31st December.
Because of this, Mr Russell also indicated that the SNP could “revisit” putting plans for a second independence referendum on hold after the UK Government refused to compromise.
He added: “The fact that they’ve refused to do so shows me that the compromise that we have taken in order to ensure that all our resources are focused on COVID-19 is something we will need to revisit.”
He also questioned the timing of the Brexit process, which will coincide with a recovery from one of the worst recessions in recorded history after GDP dropped by 20 percent.
He continued: “If you accept that is the case, what type of insanity would then lead you to suppose you could pile on an additional hit to GDP?
“The only reason for doing it would be because ideologically you’re fixated by this or because you think you can hide the damage from Brexit under worse damage being done by something else.”
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