Brexit re­veals Scot­land’s de­vo­lu­tion set­tle­ment is ‘ full of holes’, says aca­demic

The Scotsman - - NEWS DIGEST - By CHRIS MCCALL chris. [email protected] scots­man. com

Brexit has ex­posed “a deep fault line” in the con­sti­tu­tional set­tle­ment and how Scot­land fits in the UK, a de­vo­lu­tion ex­pert has warned.

With the 20th an­niver­sary of the Scot­tish Par­lia­ment be­ing marked to­mor­row, Pro­fes­sor Michael Keating said long- held “in­for­mal” agree­ments on de­vo­lu­tion could break down as Holy­rood and West­min­ster ar­gue over who should gain pow­ers re­claimed from Brus­sels fol­low­ing the UK’S de­par­ture from the EU.

Speak­ing at a de­bate or­gan­ised by the Scot­tish Cen­tre on Euro­pean Re­la­tions ( SCER), Prof Keating said the Euro­pean frame­work had helped for­malise de­vo­lu­tion across the UK.

“P o l i t i c a l p o w e r w a s re­stored to Scot­land, but in a very strange way,” he told the meet­ing in Glas­gow on Thurs­day evening, which co­in­cided with Europe Day.

“The de­vo­lu­tion set­tle­ment changed ev­ery­thing in Wales, Scot­land and North­ern Ireland, but it changed noth­ing what­so­ever at the cen­tre. It’s an odd kind of fed­er­al­ism.

“The deep am­bi­gu­ity of that set­tle­ment is some­thing that we have man­aged to live with for 20 years be­cause we have an in­for­mal­ity about the way we deal with de­vo­lu­tion. There is a con­ven­tion that West­min­ster does not over­rule the Scot­tish Par­lia­ment need­lessly.

“But if we look at that set­tle­ment it’s ac­tu­ally full of holes. One rea­son it has held to­gether is that the whole thing is em­bed­ded in the Euro­pean frame­work, which fills in for what’s miss­ing in a nor­mal fed­eral sys­tem.

“The de­vo­lu­tion set­tle­ment is largely un­writ­ten and down to con­ven­tion. The EU is a sys­tem of laws and reg­u­la­tions.”

The Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment has re­peat­edly ac­cused West­min­ster of a “power grab” af­ter it was re­vealed key con­trols over eco­nomic sec­tors such as agri­cul­ture, the en­vi­ron­ment and fish­ing pre­vi­ously held by the EU would pass to White­hall in the im­me­di­ate after­math of Brexit.

UK min­is­ters in­sisted such a trans­fer was vi­tal to re­tain the in­tegrity of the UK’S “in­ter­nal mar­ket”.

S c o t t i s h s e c r e t a r y Dav - id Mun­dell has claimed that Brexit, for from be­ing power grab, would ac­tu­ally see Holy­rood gain “sub­stan­tial” new pow­ers as a re­sult.

The es­ca­lat­ing row saw Ni­cola Stur­geon last year claim the UK Gov­ern­ment had “ripped up” the de­vo­lu­tion set­tle­ment by push­ing through the EU With­drawal Bill de­spite four of the five Holy­rood par­ties vot­ing against a leg­isla­tive con­sent mo­tion.

Prof Keating, pro­fes­sor of politics at the Univer­sity of Aberdeen, said the UK Gov­ern­ment had backed down to a de­gree on the is­sue of de­volved pow­ers.

But he added: “The po­si­tion of the UK has al­ways been ‘ we will have the last word, this is not a fed­eral sys­tem’.

“But we’ve al­ways man­aged to work our way around it. It didn’t re­ally mat­ter as Europe dealt with a lot of the is­sues. It ex­poses a deep fault line in our con­sti­tu­tional set­tle­ment in re­la­tion to Scot­land and the way Scot­land fits in.”

He added: “In Scot­land we Why the UK state must be over­hauled to pre­serve Scot­tish de­vo­lu­tion.

have al­ways thought of power in a very dif­fer­ent way. We have been in a sys­tem of union for 300 years. Power is di­vided, power is dis­persed. Sovereignt­y ex­ists in mul­ti­ple kinds of places. So with Brexit, the ques­tion is where does the power come back to?”

“The UK’S po­si­tion is: we will have the last word , this is not a fed­eral sys­tem. But we have al­ways man­aged to work our way around it”

MICHAEL KEATING

0 It has been claimed agree­ments on de­vo­lu­tion could break down as Holy­rood and West­min­ster ar­gue over who should gain pow­ers re­claimed from Brus­sels af­ter Brexit

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