SNP accused of manufacturing Brexit row to push for new independence referendum
The Scottish Government’s decision to ignore the EU (Withdrawal) Bill and proceed with its ‘continuity Bill’ has been branded a ‘political manoeuvre’.
The SNP has been accused of manufacturing a legal row over Brexit in order to push for a second independence referendum.
The accusation came as MPs debated the UK Government’s decision to challenge emergency Brexit legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly in the courts.
The devolved nations had rejected the UK Government’s EU (Withdrawal) Bill, which returned to the House of Lords on Wednesday, branding it a Westminster “power grab” and instead chose to pass their own “continuity Bills” to transpose EU law.
Scottish Tory MP Kirstene Hair (Angus) described the move as a “political manoeuvre” designed to instigate another referendum.
Ms Hair, speaking the Commons, said: “Myself and my colleagues have been concerned that the SNP’s continuity Bill is a political manoeuvre designed to create precedence for legislation on a second independence referendum.
“It’s time for the SNP to put this grievance to one side and get serious about working together as one team for the best possible Brexit.”
SNP frontbencher Pete Wishart told ministers the decision to challenge the Bill represented an “utter contempt” for Scottish Parliament.
He said: “This quite extraordinary, there’s only a question about this legislation because the Tories have chosen to question it.
“They’ve been democratically defeated in the Scottish Parliament by an overwhelming majority and they’re now showing their utter contempt for Scottish democracy by seeking to have this democratic decision overturned in the courts.”
Pleased to get so much support from Labour benches for my defence of the Scottish Parliament’s #EU Continuity Bill. @ScotTories MPs looking very upset. Seems the #BetterTogether honeymoon might finally be over? #ScotlandsPlaceInEurope #Brexit— Joanna Cherry QC MP (@joannaccherry) April 18, 2018
Speaking earlier in the question session, Attorney General Jeremy Wright said the “continuity Bills” raised “serious questions about legislative competence that need to be explored”.
He told MPs: “The key purpose of the EU (Withdrawal) Bill before this Parliament is to provide certainty across the UK on day one after exit from the EU and the Scottish and Welsh continuity Bills would frustrate this objective.
“If the continuity Bills were to become law, there would be impacts not just on the governments and legislatures but on widespread understanding of and confidence in UK law after exit.”
SNP justice and home affairs spokeswoman Joanna Cherry described the UK Government’s action as “unprecedented”, saying: “The Scottish Parliament’s Bill was passed by an overwhelming majority of 95 votes to 32.
“Only the Tories and one Lib Dem did not support the Bill. The rest of the Parliament – the SNP, Labour Party, the Greens and the rest of the Lib Dems -supported the Bill.
“Scottish ministers are satisfied it’s within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament. In this view they have the support of Scotland’s most senior law officer, the Lord Advocate.”
Ms Cherry, who secured the urgent question, asked: “Why is this Tory Government seeking to defeat a Bill in the courts which it couldn’t defeat by democratic means in the Scottish Parliament?”
Mr Wright, replying to this question, said a “substantial part” of the Bill in the Scottish Parliament was a “re-run of amendments she sought to get passed in this House and failed to do so”.
SNP MP Stewart Malcolm McDonald (Glasgow South) later accused Mr Wright of talking “tosh” as he claimed the Government wanted to “abolish” the Scottish Parliament.
Mr Wright batted away the suggest, saying: “That’s a bit of a stretch even for him.”