MSPs vote to fast-track rival Brexit bill through Scottish Parliament

© DC ThomsonThe continuity bill could be passed within three weeks after MSPs agreed to give it emergency status.
The continuity bill could be passed within three weeks after MSPs agreed to give it emergency status.

MSPs have voted to fast-track the SNP’s rival Brexit legislation through Holyrood.

The Scottish Parliament will be able to pass the continuity bill within three weeks under the emergency timetable.

Ministers in London and Edinburgh have been at loggerheads over the destination of powers returning from Brussels.

In a move condemned by the Scottish Conservatives, the SNP brought forward its alternative version of Westminster’s withdrawal bill, both of which aim to ensure there are no gaps in the statute book after Brexit.

MSPs voted by 86 to 27 on Thursday to treat the proposed law as an emergency bill, which means it will be subject to less parliamentary scrutiny.

Michael Russell, Scotland’s Brexit Secretary, said: “In the absence of an agreement about a common UK approach and in the defence of devolution, this parliament must prepare itself to assert, if it has to, the right to legislate itself about the devolved consequences of EU withdrawal.”

He added: “Without it, not only are we defenceless but our negotiating position as a government is severely weakened.”

Adam Tomkins, for the Scottish Conservatives, said the motion, which Tory MSPs voted against, was an “invitation to make bad law and to make law badly”.

“While the SNP seek to stir up a constitutional crisis, we would repeat the points made earlier this week.

“A deal to ensure the whole Scottish Parliament can support the EU Withdrawal Bill remains within reach. That is the solution we should all focus on.

“The SNP should stop the grandstanding and get back to negotiating.”

Scottish ministers say the UK bill is a “power grab” on competences that are devolved, such as agriculture and fisheries.

Ministers in London say a minority of the returning powers need to be run from Westminster, while UK-wide rules and regulations are drawn up to protect the British single market.