Scot Gov News

Joint statement by the First Ministers of Scotland and Wales – EU Exit Debate

Scotland and Wales unite to voice dismay at UK Government’s approach.

“Today, for the first time in the 20-year history of devolution, the National Assembly for Wales and the Scottish Parliament, voted simultaneously to oppose a damaging no deal Brexit.

Read Nicola Sturgeon’s opening speech at the debate:

“The vast majority of Members across both Chambers voted in agreement that a no deal outcome would be completely unacceptable and that an extension to Article 50 is the best way forward to protect Wales, Scotland and the UK as a whole.

“No deal would mean not just probable short term chaos, but also very real and long-term structural damage to our economy. Damage which would mean fewer jobs, lower wages and less tax revenue.

“The motions in both the Scottish Parliament and National Assembly for Wales also re-iterated opposition to the deal negotiated by the Prime Minister which would do significant damage to both countries.

“This united and historic step was taken to send the clearest possible message to the UK Government and Westminster that this reckless course of action must stop now.

“We take little comfort from the sequence of votes planned to take place in the House of Commons next week, when a vote on extending Article 50 will be held only after another attempt to browbeat Members of Parliament into supporting the Prime Minister’s deal and a vote to support no deal.

“We are just 24 days away from crashing out of the EU. The Prime Minister’s attempt to run down the clock must be resisted at all costs.

“Today we have come together to set out our clear opposition to the actions being taken by the UK Government.

“Next week the Prime Minister and the UK Parliament must show they have listened, rule out no deal at any time and request an immediate extension of Article 50.”

Calls for EU nationals to stay in Scotland

First Minister: UK Brexit deal is ‘self-defeating.’

The Scottish Government will increase its efforts to encourage EU citizens to remain in Scotland, the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will confirm in an address to the Assemblée Nationale, the lower house of the French Parliament, as she describes the UK’s decision to end Freedom of Movement as part of its Brexit deal as a ‘self-defeating measure.’

Speaking to the Foreign Affairs Committee after opening the Scottish Government’s new office in Paris, the First Minister will give her support to EU citizens currently living in Scotland. She will say:

“Those EU citizens of course include 13,000 French people, who are our colleagues, friends, neighbours and in many cases our family. The Scottish Government is proud that they have done us the honour of making Scotland their home.

“We will always stick up for their rights – in recent months we have lobbied successfully to ensure EU citizens would not have to pay a fee to obtain settled status in the UK. And we will always make it clear that EU citizens are welcome. In fact in the coming months, we plan to step up our efforts to encourage EU citizens to stay in Scotland.”

Discussing the impact on Scotland of the UK Government’s proposed Brexit deal she will go on to say:

“For me, this is one of the saddest parts of Brexit. The UK Government is proclaiming the end of free movement as a victory – instead, it is a self-defeating measure. It removes opportunity from millions of people.

“It is an approach which is especially damaging to Scotland. Without freedom of movement there is a danger that our population will start to decline. We could face workforce shortages in rural areas, in our universities, in our care and health services. European nationals are not only very welcome in Scotland. They are crucial to our well-being.

“All of this is down to the red lines that the UK Government has chosen to draw. Given the existence of those red lines, I understand why the European Union believes that the deal agreed in November is the best which could be achieved. And I appreciate that many people in France and across the EU would like the UK to just get on with it.

“But no government of Scotland which has the interests of this and future generations at heart could possibly support the current deal.”

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Brexit threat to jobs

Warning that ‘no deal’ will harm Scotland’s economy.

The UK Government must agree to extend Article 50 and rule out ‘no deal’ Brexit, which risks imposing severe economic damage and rising unemployment on Scotland, Constitutional Relations Secretary Michael Russell said.

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The Scottish Government will continue to act wherever possible to minimise and mitigate the impact on Scotland. However, it will not be possible to avoid the major economic costs of a ‘no deal’ Brexit.

Speaking after delivering his latest Ministerial Statement at the Scottish Parliament, Mr Russell said:

“In 38 days the UK is scheduled to leave the EU and the economic impact will be felt across the country.

“Today’s labour market statistics show that the Scottish economy and jobs market continue to strengthen. But Brexit, and in particular a ‘no deal’ Brexit, will put this at risk.

“Later this week the Finance Secretary Derek Mackay will provide economic detail on the stark reality that a ‘no deal’ Brexit will have. We estimate it could result in an increase in unemployment in Scotland of around 100,000, more than doubling the unemployment rate.

“Of course, the Prime Minister could change this course of action by extending Article 50 and ruling out ‘no deal’. The best outcome is to remain in the EU, in line with the wishes of the people in Scotland, as even the UK Government’s current deal will remove Scotland from the European Single Market – which is eight times the size of the UK alone – hitting our economy hard. As weeks go by there is still no clarity whatsoever about the future relationship with the EU.

“As a responsible government we will do all that we can to ensure that the people of Scotland get a clear, consistent message about the work that is being done and what actions they need to take.”

Brexit: Joint statement by First Ministers of Scotland and Wales

Last week, the Scottish and Welsh Governments were invited to attend a UK government cabinet committee for the first time.

We have repeatedly pressed the UK government to engage fully with us on its preparations for the UK leaving the EU and we will continue to contribute as fully as possible to the work of the European Union Exit and Trade (Preparedness) Committee over the coming weeks.

We are particularly keen to do so to press home the point that all the evidence we have seen to date suggests that the UK is simply not prepared for a ‘no deal’ Brexit in less than 2 months’ time. Our firm view is that such an outcome to the Brexit negotiations would be a catastrophe which would cause significant short-term disruption to the lives of ordinary citizens as well as to businesses and long-term harm to our economy.

And while a longer period to prepare for ‘no deal’ as proposed by some Conservative MPs might reduce the risk of people in Scotland and Wales being unable to access the medicines that they need or the range of foods they want to buy, it would do nothing to mitigate the longer-term economic damage that such a radical rupture with our EU neighbours would cause. The jobs lost at Shaeffler in Llanelli and the cancelled investment at Nissan in Sunderland are just a foretaste of the future. The CBI has estimated a no deal Brexit could cost the Scottish economy £14 billion a year by 2034.

The House of Commons, National Assembly for Wales and Scottish Parliament have all rejected the Prime Minister’s deal. It would make the UK as a whole poorer and would open the door to a “blind Brexit” with years of difficult negotiations on the future relationship and no guarantee a trade deal will even be concluded.

Alarmingly at this late hour, following its defeat, the UK government still appears unable to identify the “alternative arrangements” to the Irish backstop which it says would allow the House of Commons to vote for the deal. In addition the EU remains totally committed to the backstop, which it says will not be re-negotiated.

The point has been reached where there is now no time to waste. We therefore renew our call for the Prime Minister to make clear that she and her government will ensure ‘no deal’ is taken off the table. This should include putting forward secondary legislation now to remove 29 March 2019 as exit day from the EU (Withdrawal) Act.

The Prime Minister must also request an extension from the EU of the Article 50 deadline. We call on the Prime Minister to request such an extension immediately to put an end to the threat of the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal in only 8 weeks’ time.

The EU has made it clear that in terms of negotiations on the future relationship, it would respond favourably if the Prime Minister was to drop her “red lines”. We therefore further call on the UK government to abandon those red lines, which the EU has repeatedly said, severely restrict the possible outcomes of Brexit.

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Brexit: Preparations Ministerial statement

Brexit: preparations in the light of recent developments – ministerial statement

Scottish Parliament 06/02/19

Statement from Cabinet Secretary for Government Business and Constitutional Relations Michael Russell

Presiding Officer,

After today there are only 19 sitting days in this Parliament before the UK is due to leave the EU.

Meeting the legislative pressures of a possible “no deal” Brexit has been challenging and I acknowledge the flexibility and diligence this parliament, its Committees and their Conveners have demonstrated in carrying out that scrutiny role.

However, it is clear that there is a substantial backlog of Brexit legislation at Westminster and, to date, only 73 of the 115 UK SIs to which we have consented have been laid in the UK Parliament.

No one I have spoken to in recent weeks, with the exception of the Prime Minister, believes that Westminster can complete the work it has to finish on Brexit preparations in that time.

Accordingly the Scottish Government believes it is essential that two things happen at the earliest possible date.

Firstly, the Prime Minister must seek an extension to the Article 50 process no matter what other tasks she has set herself in terms of negotiation and Parliamentary decision. That is essential even in legislative, let alone economic and political terms.

And secondly, she – or the House of Commons – must take formal, legal steps to rule out a ‘no deal’ which would reduce the pressure on businesses and individuals as well as on the Parliaments of these islands.

Presiding Officer, in December last year this Parliament voted decisively against the Prime Minister’s EU Withdrawal deal, and for very good reasons.

The Prime Minister’s “deal” would make Scotland poorer, place us at a serious competitive disadvantage and, combined with the UK Government’s hostile immigration policy, make a fall in Scotland’s working, tax-paying population inevitable.

In addition the proposed deal provides no certainty. It will mean years of difficult negotiations with no guarantee that a trade deal can, in the end, be achieved.

Last week the Prime Minister seemed to agree with us, voting against her own deal by backing the Brady amendment seeking “alternatives” to the backstop – a backstop she negotiated, and alternatives she and her colleagues, including the ever flexible Secretary of State for Scotland, said (just two weeks ago) did not exist.

They still don’t exist.

The Prime Minister’s deal isn’t the solution to this problem, it is the problem. It represents the inevitable outcome of ill- conceived red lines. It is those red lines that need to change.

Alternatives are possible.

In fact they are absolutely essential. And they are available.

In 2016 the Scottish Government set out compromise plans that would keep both Scotland and the UK in the Single Market.

Now, with the clock ticking down to exit day the Scottish Government is working with others to try and obtain an extension to Article 50 to avoid a catastrophic ‘No Deal’ outcome and allow time for a second referendum on EU membership.

However, as a responsible Government we must act to minimise and mitigate the impact of a possible ‘No Deal’ outcome in Scotland.

We will do everything we can in that regard, although I repeat the caveat I added when I last updated the chamber about the matter – we cannot do everything.

Extensive preparation has been underway for some time but in the first weeks of this year we have been steadily intensifying this work.

Under the leadership of the Deputy First Minister, reporting to the First Minister, the Scottish Government Resilience Committee continues to provide a single clear, coordinating structure, with COSLA, civil contingencies responders and Police Scotland participating in these arrangements alongside senior civil servants and Cabinet Secretaries.

It will meet again later today and next week during recess. Cabinet will also meet during recess to hear a further update as we are now preparing for the potential need to operate these arrangements on a permanent basis in the event of a ‘no deal’ outcome and to activate public communications.

I have also attended two special UK Government Ministerial meetings in recent weeks which have considered no deal planning and we continue to engage on these matters with the UK Government at the highest levels. The Deputy First Minister will attend another UK Cabinet Sub Committee on EU exit on Monday.

The Scottish Resilience Partnership is coordinating work across Scotland to ensure that Local Resilience Partnerships are fully engaged in planning, mitigation and preparing arrangements to respond to any of the civil contingency issues arising out of EU Exit.

A national EU-Exit Civil Contingencies Plan is being developed on a multi-agency basis and this will be tested and exercised shortly.

A No-Deal Brexit has the potential to generate a significant economic shock which could tip the Scottish economy into recession (potentially into a deep recession).

It would also have a severe impact on the labour market resulting in potential job losses, business relocations and closures, underemployment and a reduction in recruitment.

The SME sector is likely to be the worst hit. Alongside the UK Government we are trying to rectify that and we would support measures to ensure that there is increased liquidity in the banking system should it be required.

As part of our support for business, the Prepare for Brexit campaign offers practical advice which can help to safeguard, as much as possible in these circumstances, a company’s own growth and that of the Scottish economy.

On transport, it remains our aim to try and secure the best flow of essential goods into Scotland. We are concerned at the possibility of severe delays to freight traffic through Dover and the Channel Tunnel.

We are working with the Department for Transport to establish the extent to which its contingency plans are addressing Scotland’s needs for critical goods and in particularly how rurality can be factored in to supply chain issues. Given my constituency experience I am especially conscious of the position of the Scottish islands and I discussed some of those matters when in Orkney earlier this week.

Transport Scotland is also working with transport providers and ports and airports in Scotland to assess their existing capacity and identify how they could help mitigate disruption and ensure that Scotland’s exporters can continue to get their goods to market.

Uncertainty about future tariff arrangements provide another, key, demonstration of the potentially damaging consequences of No Deal.

Studies by the British Retail Consortium and others suggest that in the absence of a trade agreement between the UK and the EU reversion to WTO tariffs for imports and exports could lead to significant price increases, particularly for food and drink. The Governor of the Bank of England has identified potential rises of between 5-10%.

Our red meat industry and seafood sector will be severely impacted by punitive tariffs, and by severe disruption at the port of Dover. The seafood sector will also be required to comply with a range of additional administrative burdens.

We are seeking urgent clarity on updated UK Government technical advice on Protected Food Names in the event of a no-deal. Not only did the UK Government fail to consult or inform us of the updated notice, the UK Government states that current holders, for example Scottish Salmon, Scotch Beef and Scotch Lamb, may need to re-apply to EU for protection in Europe, and also in other countries where there is a mutual recognition with third countries.

It has long been clear that leaving the EU, under any circumstances, will have a negative impact on the health and social care sector.

If free movement is curtailed, this would have serious consequences for the recruitment and retention of health and social care workers.

On medicines, the Scottish Government is working with all other UK administrations to make sure that patients get the medicines and other medical supplies they need, as far as is possible.

Many of the practical issues connected to medicine supply such as entry and custom controls are out with the devolved competency and we continue to raise specific concerns directly with Department of Health and Social Care.

In addition last week the Scottish Government’s Chief Pharmaceutical Officer wrote to pharmacists and other health professionals to provide information and advice.

One particular point being emphasised is that it is important that patients take a careful view, discuss issues with their GP and pharmacist and do not rush to increase their own supplies

A “no deal” Brexit also raises concerns in areas such as the supply of medical devices, clinical trials, access to future EU funding and the rights of Scottish citizens to secure state-provided healthcare across the EU. NHS Scotland Boards are taking forward their own planning to mitigate this with Scottish Government support.

If there was a no-deal outcome, be denied access to many of the security and law enforcement co-operation measures that Police Scotland and the Crown Office use daily to keep people safe. We would lose membership of Europol, the use of the European arrest warrant and access to vital information-sharing arrangements. That would represent a significant downgrading of our policing and security capability when cross-border crime and security threats are increasing.

As the Chief Constable outlined to the Justice sub-committee on policing last week, Police Scotland is taking forward extensive preparations for loss of these measures, working closely with the Scottish Government. It is also making arrangements to ensure that officers are available for, and trained for, civil contingencies demands and for mutual aid requests.

Police Scotland has today announced plans to put 360 officers on standby from mid-March to deal with any incidents that may arise across the country, such as disruption at ports.

Across the Scottish Government, we are now aligning our existing financial and staff resources towards those areas with specific no-deal impacts and ensuring that we have the right people, in the right places, with the right skills to respond quickly and effectively.

Across the public sector, resources are being diverted to essential preparations for the impact of Brexit. A decision to remain in the EU would allow those resources to be returned to the support and development of frontline services and delivery of Scotland’s priorities.

Our basic principle is this; the Scottish Government believes that any costs related to EU exit by public bodies be they in government, local government or the public sector should not have a detrimental impact on Scotland’s public finances.

Finally, Presiding Officer, let me turn to communications,

The Scottish Government does not intend to replicate the UK approach of publishing a myriad of technical notices. Where those affect Scotland or Scottish issues we are happy to see them distributed and we have done our best to influence them.

We will however do all that we can to ensure that the people of Scotland get a clear, consistent message about the work that is being done and what actions they need to take.

We have therefore launched a public information website to provide important advice around issues such as transport, food, medicines and citizens’ rights. It is now available at

This will be regularly reviewed and updated, in order to ensure that the latest information is made available.

We are however coordinating our message with the UK Government where possible and supplementing their message, as we feel necessary. That is the right way forward in terms of resources and clarity.

Presiding Officer,

We do not accept the suggestion that no deal is somehow inevitable, and nor should we allow anyone to ‘normalise’ it.

Unless and until the UK Government takes the necessary steps to rule No Deal out, the Scottish Government must go on with, and indeed intensify, our work to prepare as best we can.

Though Scotland did not vote for this, and should not be having to go through it.


Michael Russell’s full speech in defence of Scotland’s parliament.

Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland’s Place in Europe, Michael Russell

Presiding Officer,

When Donald Dewar spoke at the opening of the Scottish Parliament – the re-opening as he himself acknowledged – on the 1st of July 1999 he talked of it being :

“a new stage on a journey begun long ago and which has no end.”

Presiding Officer you were there to hear that speech. So was I. So were the First Minster and the Deputy First Minister sitting on this front bench today. So were Tavish Scott and Mike Rumbles, so was Iain Gray and Elaine Smith. 26 members of this present Parliament were, so to speak, in at the beginning, though the beginning was actually a culmination of a long campaign and struggle which was fought, again in Donald Dewar’s words, to achieve “the day when democracy was renewed in Scotland”.

Of course I and all the others on these benches disagreed then with Donald Dewar about the final destination of that journey, just as we disagree on that matter with others here today.

Yet that was not the important thing on that opening day and it is not the important thing today.

The important thing was, and is, to acknowledge the progress that had, and has, been made. To accept that on this journey together in a Parliament of minorities – a journey the Scottish people told us to take and which they voted for by an overwhelming majority – we should find a way to secure tangible gains for our country, no matter our vision of where we wanted to end up.

And that is our duty because this Scottish Parliament belongs to the people of Scotland: not to us as parliamentarians, nor to this Government or any Government. As elected members, we hold this place and our powers in trust: for the generation that voted for it, for this generation, and for the generations to come.

They decide on journey and endpoint, not us.

Presiding Officer, over the past 19 years this Scottish Parliament has, in the greatest part, been good for Scotland.

The powers of this Scottish Parliament have been used by administrations of different political complexions to improve the lives of many – hopefully most – of the people living in Scotland, often in response to some of the most serious challenges they face.

Every one of us in this chamber has played a part in that – from securing free personal care for the elderly to abolishing tuition fees; from establishing world-leading climate change legislation to delivering equal marriage; from putting in place the UK’s first smoking ban to agreeing that for the health of our nation we should introduce minimum unit pricing for alcohol; from eliminating business rates on small enterprises to supporting innovative and profitable renewable energy generation.

We have, and we use, these powers because we enjoy an established system of government called devolution.

It may not be able to secure everything all of us want but devolution put in place in 1999, and strengthened by subsequent agreements with Westminster – has made our system of governance robust enough to withstand expected and unexpected challenge and difficulty. Robust enough to withstand a global financial crash and to resist – at least in part – the misguided and damaging policy of austerity.

Now it is our job to ensure that it is not cast aside because of a Brexit which Scotland did not vote for and which can only be damaging to our country.

Today the challenge of Brexit – or rather the challenge of the proposed power grab by the UK Government under the guise of delivering Brexit – puts our devolved settlement at risk.

The Secretary of State for Scotland – who incidentally also heard Donald Dewar’s opening remarks as a member of this Parliament – dismissively described the issues we are debating today as “dancing on the head of a pin”.

Presiding Officer, it is not dancing on the head of a pin to insist that twenty years of stable devolution that has delivered good things for our fellow citizens be protected.

Nor to demand that the powers we use for the benefit of Scotland, which have been agreed by the people of Scotland.

Now in one view, the vulnerability of the principles of devolution to the UK Government’s approach to Brexit should not surprise us.

That government cannot answer even the most basic of questions on issues such as the Customs Union with just months to go before a Withdrawal Agreement must be signed.

It has dismissed this Parliament’s views on wider Brexit issues such as the Single Market and the triggering of Article 50 and it has acted recklessly towards prosperity, and peace in Northern Ireland.

Presiding Officer, in contrast to the division at Westminster, there has been consensus in this Chamber over the need to protect the Scottish Parliament’s powers.

The Scottish Government has always acknowledged that we must prepare our laws for EU withdrawal.

But we accept that legal preparation for Brexit is required and that that is the purpose of the EU Withdrawal Bill.

The UK Government, for its part, recognizes that it is required to get our consent to the bill. And on that point, this Parliament spoke very powerfully when, in its interim report, the Finance and Constitution Committee in January agreed unanimously that the bill was “incompatible with the devolution settlement in Scotland” and that it could not therefore recommend consent.

Clause 11 was not an accidental clause; – it encapsulates the current UK Government’s view of the type of devolution it wants to see – operating only by the grace and favour of Downing St.

Now to be fair the UK Government, eventually responded to the unanimous view of this Parliament and Welsh Assembly and many others that clause 11 as originally drafted was unacceptable.

So it made changes.

But Presiding Officer, it is still clear, in its new re-formulated clause 11, how the UK Government sees power being exercised on withdrawal from the EU. It is still clear how it views this Parliament.

And that view is unacceptable.

For it would abandon the way in which we have all operated for almost two decades and break the devolution settlement we have.

The UK Government wants to take a power to restrict the competence of this Parliament. And it wants to be able to exercise that power even in the face of an explicit decision by this Parliament that it should not.

This is not about the sovereignty of the Westminster Parliament, or giving effect to the Sewel Convention. This is about the UK Government, not the UK Parliament, for the first time being able to adjust the terms on which devolution operates through delegated legislation; and to be able to do so without the consent, or even against the wishes, of this Parliament.

Presiding Officer, there are existing and effective powers under the original Scotland Act which allow the competence of this Parliament or the Scottish Government to be adjusted.

Importantly, none of them operate in the way set out in the new clause 11.

Every single one of them requires changes to be passed by both the UK Parliament and the Scottish Parliament. Every single one of them requires proper democratic consent to be sought and received. Real consent, not presumed consent, not no means yes, no matter what this chamber says.

A section 30 order, for example, adjusting the list of reserved matters and therefore the boundaries of devolution, requires to be passed by this Parliament. It cannot become law without the consent of the Parliament and the country it affects. There have been thirty orders passed under section 30 since this Parliament was established, all the product of agreement; all consented to in this place and at Westminster, all done so on the basis of parity – even the section 30 for an independence referendum was able to secure support and win the consent of both parliaments

Now of course the UK Government tells us that it would not normally make these regulations without our consent.

But those are not words that appear in the legislation. The legislation is actually drafted on the basis that proceeding with an order – even without consent from this Parliament; even if this Parliament has unanimously voted against it – will be normal.

And it is that legislation to which we are being asked to consent.

Moreover, the actual amendments to Clause 11, now passed by the House of Lords, say that the powers of this Parliament can be constrained for up to seven years, whether the Parliament agrees, whether it does not agree, or whether it makes no decision at all

The purpose of this constraint is, we are told, to enable discussion to take place on the establishment of common UK frameworks in devolved policy areas after Brexit.

But there is no need to impose an unprecedented, unequal and unacceptable new legislative constraint to achieve that end.

Because we agree that there may be the need, in certain areas, to establish such common frameworks.

And in keeping with the spirit and principles of devolution, we agree that those common frameworks should be the product of negotiation and agreement between governments and parliaments, rather than established by imposition.

We also agree that, pending the establishment of common frameworks, both governments should maintain existing EU law regimes across the UK.

Now, the Secretary of State for Scotland has said frameworks should not be imposed. But as the Finance and Constitution committee reported:

“this commitment that common frameworks will not be imposed is contradicted by the ‘consent decision’ mechanism created by the UK Government’s amendments to Clause 11 which would allow the UK Government to proceed with regulations without the consent of the Scottish Parliament.”

The committee made the key point that the devolution settlement can only function effectively if there is mutual trust between all of the UK’s governments; if the substantial political agreement between governments is given effect by political means.

The answer, therefore, is to proceed through reciprocal political commitments.

That was the view of all parties on the committee – except the Conservatives.

Today, in this motion, the Scottish Government is asking Parliament to withhold consent to the Bill as it stands.

This will not be the end of this process – the offer of this Parliament is still on the table.

However, passing this motion means that the EU Withdrawal Bill must be adjusted, either so that it can command the consent of this Parliament, or to reflect the terms of the legislative consent motion.

If the motion is passed today, that will be the will of this Parliament.

What cannot happen, Presiding Officer, is what the UK Government seems to want to happen. They want to ignore the reality of devolution. They want to drown out what this Parliament says.

But, not even they can pretend that no motion has been passed.

Nor can they pretend that this Parliament is failing to face up to its responsibilities to enable the statute book for which it is responsible to be prepared – through passing the Continuity Bill; and through supporting the Government in seeking to secure amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill so that it could command the consent of the Parliament.

If after tonight’s vote the UK Government move to force on this Parliament an arrangement for restricting devolution that does not have Parliament’s consent they will do so in the full knowledge that they are breaking the twenty year old devolution settlement and operating out with the agreed constitution.

Those are actions that will be noted here and across Europe.

In short, if there is a failure after today’s vote to adapt the bill to devolution. It will be the UK that would be breaking trust, and breaking the rules, not us.

Presiding Officer, Donald Dewar began his speech on the 1st of July by looking at the mace that was in front of him then and is in front of us now. It has inscribed on it the first words of our founding statute – “there shall be a Scottish Parliament”.

Twenty years ago they were words of aspiration; a statement of constitutional intent. Now, they words of constitutional reality; of resolve. There is a Scottish Parliament and its voice must be heard.

Donald Dewar cautioned us in his speech that the Scottish Parliament was “not an end”, it was “a means to greater ends.”

Today we are called on – for the first time – to protect those means by refusing to accept changes to them to which we have not agreed.

To protect those means, so that we can go on achieving the best ends for Scotland we can.

To protect those means because, the people of Scotland themselves chose them – and they chose us to protect them.

Accordingly Presiding Officer, I move the motion in my name.

“Overwhelming case” for Scotland-specific migration system.

A tailored migration system for Scotland (Scot Gov Website News)

“Overwhelming case” for Scotland-specific system.

Scotland’s population projections show there is an ‘overwhelming case’ for Scotland to have the power to tailor its own migration policy, External Affairs Secretary Fiona Hyslop has said.

With the number of deaths expected to outweigh the number of births for every year until 2040, action is required to maintain and grow Scotland’s working age population to help support the welcome fact that people are living longer.

A new Scottish Government discussion paper on migration looks in detail at the impact that falling migration levels would have on Scotland’s economy and what a devolved migration policy could look like.

The paper sets out ways in which the Scottish Government could be given a greater say on UK migration policy in support of Scotland’s needs, as well as options for a Scotland-specific migration system, including:

  • Scottish ministers to set specific criteria to address Scotland’s needs, rather than arbitrary caps on numbers
  • A new Scottish body could be set up to administer the policy
  • Devolved powers to make it easier for migrants’ family members, and those of UK citizens, to join them in Scotland.

The discussion paper found that by 2040, lower migration alone would reduce Scotland’s real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 4.5% – equivalent to a fall of almost £5 billion a year. The reduction across the rest of the UK would be 3.7%, demonstrating the Scottish economy’s greater reliance on migration.

In a ‘worst case scenario’ where migration is reduced to tens of thousands, the cost to the Scottish economy could be £10 billion per year by 2040.

The paper also identifies specific differences in the migration needs of Scotland and the UK including:

  • The importance of migration to help grow our working age population
  • The value of inward migration to rural Scotland, where it helps sustain employment and essential public services in rural communities
  • A need for migration routes to Scotland that allow for and promote long-term settlement, rather than just short-term work visas, to help support demographic sustainability.

Launching the paper on a visit to Outplay Entertainment, a games company in Dundee with a high ratio of skilled workers from overseas, Ms Hyslop said:

“In the absence of clarity from the UK Government on what migration policy will be post-Brexit, this paper looks in some detail at Scotland’s population needs and how they can be achieved.

“It is clear that the UK Government’s plans to reduce migration would not support Scotland’s economy or our population needs – all of Scotland’s population growth over the next 25 years is projected to come from migration. So this paper sets out what a devolved migration system could look like, and the principles we would follow.

“Inward migration does not just bring economic benefits. By welcoming people to live, work and study in Scotland we can strengthen our society and enrich our lives.

“Migrants contribute to our economy by bringing new skills and fresh approaches. Without their contribution Scotland’s economic growth will suffer. Scotland’s economy is heavily reliant on inward migration – particularly of workers with the skills we particularly need, like those I met today in Dundee.

“This paper demonstrates that it simply does not make sense to set arbitrary targets to reduce net migration, or to end free movement of people by leaving the single market.

“There is now an overwhelmingly strong case for Scotland to have the power to tailor its own migration policy to reflect its own unique circumstances. Indeed, there is a growing consensus that this is the only logical step in the face of UK Government policy which is determined to restrict the number of people who can choose to make Scotland their home.”

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Budget stage 1; NHS, economy and the low paid to benefit

Scot Gov Website News Article:
Scotland’s NHS, the economy, public sector workers and the low paid will benefit from the Scottish budget, Finance Secretary Derek Mackay said today as he confirmed he had reached an agreement that will see the financial plan passed at all stages by the Scottish Parliament.

The budget takes steps to mitigate UK Government cuts, increases funding for the NHS by £400 million, invests in the expansion of early learning and childcare, delivers on our commitments to broadband, supports the building of 50,000 new homes, backs small businesses and innovation and provides essential funding for our frontline police and fire services.

The Finance Secretary also confirmed he will extend the Scottish Government’s commitments on public sector pay to ensure all public sector employees earning up to £36,500 receive a minimum 3% pay increase – meaning 75% of public sector workers, including NHS staff, will benefit from an inflationary pay rise.

As part of an agreement with the Scottish Green Party, the budget will now include a real terms increase in revenue investment for local authorities with local services benefitting from an additional £159.5 million of resource funding, and following discussions with Shetland and Orkney Island Councils, funding of £10.5 million will be made available to support inter-island ferry services in 2018-19 – with talks continuing on a long term solution.

Investment in Low Carbon infrastructure – which is already increasing from 21% of planned infrastructure investment in 2017-18 to 29% in 2018-19 – will continue to increase in each year of the parliament, with additional support made available this year for home energy efficiency, the exploration of new local rail services and the delivery of marine protected areas.

In addition, Mr Mackay confirmed that, following publication of the Scottish Government’s tax proposals in December, he would take steps to remove an anomaly that meant some higher rate tax payers saw their bills fall while others on slightly lower incomes saw a rise, due in part to changes in the personal allowance.

As a result, while 70% of taxpayers will continue to pay less next year than they currently do, 55% will pay less than they would elsewhere in the UK. All those earning above the new Higher Rate Threshold of £43,430, a 1% increase on the 2017-18 threshold, will see a modest increase in income tax. This distinct income tax policy will raise around £55 million and support an additional £420 million of investment in the Scottish budget.

Confirming the changes during the Stage 1 of the budget debate, Mr Mackay said:

“As a parliament of minorities, we must work across the chamber to find compromise and consensus in order to give support, sustainability and stimulus to our economy and to our public services.

“This budget invests record amounts in our NHS, supports our efforts to improve attainment in our schools, invests in our economy with support for infrastructure, for broadband and for innovation, and supports our ambitions to tackle climate change.

“We are lifting the pay cap with a real terms increase in pay for the majority of public sector workers and we are supporting local services with a real terms increase for day to day spending and for long term investment, with an additional £170 million going into local services, on top of the £10.5 billion already proposed.

“Our changes to tax ensure Scotland has a progressive tax system – with 70% of taxpayers paying less next year than they do currently and 55% paying less than they would across the rest of the UK – while businesses benefit from support for investment.

“The changes I have announced ensure that people in Scotland will benefit from the best deal for taxpayers in the whole of the UK.”

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Scot Gov Call for strengthened Brexit dialogue

Russell sets out suggestions to new Minister of State. (Scot Gov News)

The UK Government must work more closely with devolved governments as they embark on a second phase of negotiations with the EU in order to achieve best possible outcome, said Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland’s Place in Europe Michael Russell.

Following economic impact analysis, Scotland’s Place in Europe: People, Jobs and Investment which confirms remaining in the European Single Market and Customs Union would be best post-Brexit. The Scottish Government is calling for clarification and assurances from the UK Government on the meaningful participation of devolved governments in agreeing UK positions, as well as the urgent reconvening of the Joint Ministerial Committee (EU Negotiations).

Full text from Minister of UK Negotiations on Scotland’s Place in Europe Michael Russell to the newly appointed Rt Hon David Lidington MP as Minister of State (Cabinet Office) below.

Further to my letter to you last week, I am writing again to make some specific and urgent requests.

I am sure that you will agree that as the UK embarks on a second phase of negotiations with the EU, it is crucial that the UK Government and the devolved governments work closely together to achieve the best possible outcome.

We understand that the UK Government is to set out its approach to the second phase of negotiations in mid-February. I would be grateful, therefore, if you could share further detail on how the UK Government is reaching agreement on its desired end state relationship with the EU, and when devolved administrations can expect to have an opportunity to participate in and influence the outcome of that discussion.

To better enable our genuine participation, I would also welcome your clarification on the anticipated sequencing for phase two of the negotiations with the EU, including key dates for subject specific discussions. This should be the driver for the prioritisation of discussions, including at the Joint Ministerial Committee (EU Negotiations).

Whilst the Joint Agreement reached by the UK Government and EU in December was a welcome step forward, it is clear that the next phase of these negotiations will be significantly tougher than the first. It is essential that all Governments across the UK are fully involved in preparing for and delivering progress. Therefore there is, as I set out in my letter last week, an urgent need to convene a meeting of the JMC (EN) and agree joint working arrangements going forward. A meeting of the JMC (Plenary) will also be essential in order to take a high level view of this matter.

I remain concerned that as we move forward we have yet to agree mechanisms for joint working between the UK Government and Devolved Administrations which fully reflect the type of engagement and involvement envisaged in the terms of reference of the JMC (EN) and in subsequent meetings. I also see a serious risk that the important activity to agree joint working arrangements going forward will not be complete until after the UK has established its position on the end state relationship. That would not be acceptable. We did of course reach a positive agreement at the meeting of the JMC (EN) on 12 December 2017 that there should be greater involvement and engagement of the devolved administrations in phase two of the negotiations.

I, therefore, hope that agreement on the detail of this can be rapidly reached and endorsed by the next meeting of the JMC (EN), so that such engagement can commence.

I will be in London on 29 and 30 January and would welcome discussion with you to progress these matters with urgency.

I am copying this letter to the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, David Davis, the Secretary of State for Scotland, David Mundell, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance in the Welsh Government, Mark Drakeford and the Permanent Secretary for the Northern Ireland Executive, David Sterling.

Michael Russell

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Scotland’s economy continues to grow

GDP grew by 0.2% in the third quarter of 2017. (Scot Gov News Website)

Scotland’s economy has remained resilient going into the second half of 2017 despite a challenging economic environment and continued Brexit uncertainty, the Economy Secretary has said.

According to the latest GDP statistics published by the Scottish Government today, the Scottish economy grew by 0.2% in the third quarter of 2017, and has increased by a total of 0.8% since the start of the year.

In the latest quarter, Services grew by 0.2% and Production grew by 1.2% after a return to growth for both manufacturing, mining and quarrying.

Economy Secretary Keith Brown said:

“Despite the impact that continued Brexit uncertainty is having on our economy, today’s figures demonstrate the resilience of the Scottish Economy with the third consecutive quarter of positive growth.

“Although more modest than we would like, it is encouraging to see the economy grow by 0.2% overall. Within this, it’s particularly heartening to see Services continue to expand, and Production up by 1.2%, with a return to growth for manufacturing. While these figures show a fall in construction output, this is as a result of activity returning to more normal levels following our increased investment in large transport infrastructure developments over recent years, including the Forth Replacement Crossing, M8 missing link and the Borders Railway.

“Our determination to seize opportunity and grow our economy is demonstrated by the £270 million increase on economic spending we announced in the 2018/19 Draft Budget. However it cannot be stressed enough that the single biggest threat to our economy as a whole remains the lack of clarity from the UK Government over Brexit. This week the Scottish Government published analysis which showed that failure to remain in the Single Market or secure a free trade agreement would see Scotland’s GDP around £12.7 billion lower by 2030 than it would be under continued EU membership.

“I would once again call on the UK Government to give people and businesses greater certainty over the Brexit process in order to further stimulate growth in Scotland’s business communities and allow us to continue to attract and retain talent within our workforce.”

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