Earlier this year, the Scottish parliament passed the Continuity Bill. This was to ensure that powers held by the EU that would normally be devolved to our Parliament (like agriculture and the environment for instance), would return to the Scottish Parliament upon Brexit. The Scottish government’s view was that since these powers returning from Europe were normal areas for Holyrood to control, then, when the UK left the EU, these powers would simply return to Holyrood, not Westminster. So far, so good.
But when the UK government realised what was going on, they panicked, and stalled the Bill from becoming law by referring it to the UK Supreme Court. In the meantime, it rushed the EU Withdrawal Bill through the UK parliament and into law. In it were the infamous ‘power grab’ clauses. And guess what? The power grab removed these powers from the Scottish parliament.
When the judges at the Supreme Court gave their judgement, they ruled that the entire Continuity Bill (aside from one clause) was ‘within Holyrood’s competence’ – in other words, it was legal for Holyrood to pass it at the time. But because it was prevented from becoming law by the UK’s sleekit referral of the Bill to the Supreme Court, much of it can’t now become law because the UK’s EU Withdrawal Bill trumps it.
So it doesn’t matter that the Scottish parliament had the powers to pass it. When the UK found out, it simply delayed it from being signed into law because it could. As a result, the powers have been grabbed and Holyrood has been neutered. In doing so, the UK has stamped its will on the Scottish people and our parliament through delaying tactics and chicanery. Power devolved is power retained right enough.