Stur­geon hopes for progress af­ter talks

But tells PM with­drawal leg­is­la­tion un­ac­cept­able in its present form

The Courier & Advertiser (Perth and Perthshire Edition) - - NEWS - AN­DREW WOOD­COCK

Ni­cola Stur­geon has told Theresa May the EU With­drawal Bill is not ac­cept­able to the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment in its cur­rent form.

Af­ter talks at 10 Down­ing Street, the Scot­tish First Min­is­ter said no agree­ment on the way for­ward for Brexit was reached, but held out prospects of dif­fer­ences be­ing ironed out in the weeks to come.

The de­volved ad­min­is­tra­tions of Scot­land and Wales have branded the leg­is­la­tion – which be­gan its com­mit­tee stage in the House of Com­mons yes­ter­day – a “power grab”, as it would re­turn re­spon­si­bil­i­ties in ar­eas such as agri­cul­ture from Brus­sels to Lon­don.

Down­ing Street said the Prime Min­is­ter told Ms Stur­geon her pri­or­ity was “to pro­vide cer­tainty to busi­nesses and peo­ple in Scot­land and across the coun­try, as well as pro­tect­ing our UK in­ter­nal mar­ket”.

The Scot­tish First Min­is­ter has char­ac­terised the 45 min­utes of talks as “con­struc­tive and cor­dial”.

But she added: “I made very clear, as the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment has done con­sis­tently, that the With­drawal Bill as it stands would not be ac­cept­able and we would not be able to rec­om­mend ap­proval of that.

“That re­mains the po­si­tion. “But hope­fully, hav­ing had the op­por­tu­nity to air the con­cerns that we have in more de­tail, we will be able to see progress in the weeks to come.

Ms Stur­geon added: “While we didn’t reach agree­ment, I think we de­vel­oped a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of each other’s po­si­tions.

“I made clear that the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment wants to find agree­ment on the With­drawal Bill. We op­pose Brexit but we un­der­stand with­drawal leg­is­la­tion is nec­es­sary, so we want to find agree­ment.

“But I also made clear what our bot­tom lines are on that Bill. Dis­cus­sions will con­tinue, and hope­fully we can reach some points of agree­ment in the weeks to come.”

In dis­cus­sions on Brexit, Down­ing Street said the PM told Ms Stur­geon that “it re­mains her pri­or­ity to pro­vide cer­tainty to busi­nesses and peo­ple both in Scot­land and across the coun­try, as well as pro­tect­ing our UK in­ter­nal mar­ket”.

A spokesman added: “They spoke about progress in agree­ing prin­ci­ples on com­mon frame­works at the re­cent Joint Min­is­te­rial Com­mit­tee, and the Prime Min­is­ter re­it­er­ated that as pow­ers are repa­tri­ated from Brus­sels back to Bri­tain there will be a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in the de­ci­sion-mak­ing pow­ers for the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment and other de­volved ad­min­is­tra­tions.

“The Prime Min­is­ter en­cour­aged the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment to con­tinue to work with coun­ter­parts to se­cure the best out­come for the peo­ple of Scot­land and the whole of the UK.”

Ms Stur­geon said Mrs May’s de­ci­sion to put the date and time of Brexit on to the face of the With­drawal Bill was not “sen­si­ble”.

The pair also dis­cussed the re­cent wave of al­le­ga­tions of im­proper con­duct and sex­ual harassment in pol­i­tics north and south of the bor­der, and agreed that such be­hav­iour was “com­pletely un­ac­cept­able”, said Num­ber 10.

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