The role of the Scottish Parliament

A fundamental part of the constitutional arrangements of the UK has been thrown into chaos over Brexit, with fears the Scottish Parliament could be entirely “shut out” of the process.

Under the Sewel Convention, devolved parliaments vote on the granting of legislative consent for Westminster bills that affect their powers - even though they cannot block those laws.

The withdrawal agreement put forward by Boris Johnson explicitly lists 16 instances where a legislative consent motion should be sought from the devolved parliaments.

But when asked by SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford last week to confirm the Brexit bill will not be passed unless consent is given by the Scottish Parliament, the Prime Minister claimed the Scottish Parliament has “no role in approving this deal”.

In response Blackford said: “There we have it. The legislative consent of the Scottish Parliament is meaningless in the Prime Minister’s eyes.

“So much for the respect agenda, and so much for the message in 2014 that we were to lead the United Kingdom and that this was a Union of equals.”

The Labour First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon have warned of an unprecedented constitutional crisis if the Brexit bill proceeds without legislative consent at Holyrood and Cardiff Bay.

Scottish Brexit secretary Mike Russell said a letter was received from Brexit under-secretary James Duddridge on October 20 asking for the Scottish Parliament’s consent on the new deal.

But in a letter to UK ministers he said it appears the Prime Minister wants to “shut the Scottish Parliament out entirely” from the Brexit process.

The damage to the economy

The impact of Brexit uncertainty has already cost the Scottish economy around £3billion, a leading think-tank warned last week.

The Fraser of Allander Institute at Strathclyde University also said the nature of Johnson’s ‘deal’ as one of the hardest forms of Brexit would bring “considerable challenges” for both the Scottish and UK economies in the long-term.

According to its study, the size of the Scottish economy was two per cent – or around £3billion – smaller than forecast before the Brexit vote.

Business investment had been particularly affected with many companies delaying or cancelling spending decisions.

Figures published this month also revealed a drop in employment in Scotland - the highest of any region in Britain.

The Scottish Government blamed uncertainty over Brexit as the main driver behind the fall, of 1.4 per cent in the three months to August.

During the same period unemployment in Scotland also increased ahead of other areas of the UK, with a rise of 0.8 per cent.

Business minister Jamie Hepburn said: “Brexit is having an increasingly negative impact on Scotland’s economy and labour market, and that it demonstrated by these figures.”

Analysis carried out by the Scottish Government last year suggested Theresa May’s Brexit deal would leave each person in Scotland £1,600 worse off.

The SNP says the “disastrous” impact remains unchanged under Johnson’s deal.

The impact on immigration

Scotland’s population growth is beginning to stutter with “no natural growth”, official figures revealed this month.

Deaths constantly outstrip births, making inward migration the sole driver of population growth.

It means Scotland is particularly vulnerable to any cuts in EU migration as a result of Brexit, which could result in a dramatic drop in the number of workers needed to pay for public services.

The country’s population is expected to grow by 2.4 per cent from 5.44 million people in 2018 to 5.57 million in 2043.

If EU migration is halved by Brexit, it could be just 1% and it is predicted to fall by 0.5% if EU migration ends completely.

However the UK’s population is more resilient to lower EU migration. It would grow by 7.7 per cent if EU migration was cut by half and even if it ended, the population is anticipated to have 6.4 per cent boost.

Concerns also have been raised about the short-term impact of Brexit, particularly in areas that rely heavily on EU workers.

Last week one recruiter in the care sector said up to 40% of EU care staff had chosen to leave after the Brexit vote in 2016.

Stephen Wilson, chief executive of Edinburgh-based Novacare, described it as a “national emergency” and said it was resulting in people dying in hospital as a result of not being able to get care packages to allow them to go home.

Meanwhile EU workers choosing to work in countries other than the UK has led to millions of fruit and vegetables being left to rot in orchards and fields.

The National Farmers’ Union said more than 16 million apples has gone unpicked in Britain already this season.

One farmer in Scotland said they had been forced to leave eight tonnes of their best strawberries to rot.

The fishing loophole

Boris Johnson has insisted his Brexit deal will give Scotland the chance enjoy the benefits of its “spectacular marine wealth”.

However in contrast to his claim, there have been fears raised Brexit could have a “catastrophic” effect on the industry.

Andrew Charles, co-chairman of the Scottish Seafood Association warned earlier this month that additional paperwork and charges would cost exporters £160 per sale – adding up to £34million a year.

He said this would apply with or without a deal and that Brexit is going to bring “massive, massive headaches”.

The SNP also raised concerns last week over that under Johnson’s deal Northern Ireland’s fishing sector will have access to the single market and customs union, while Scotland’s industry – which fishes in the same waters – will not.

The loophole means Scottish fishing vessels could register in Northern Ireland, land their catch and have it transported to the Republic of Ireland without undergoing processing.

This would mean catches would be exempted from EU customs duties – while fish exported from Scotland to the EU could be hit by tariffs.

SNP MP Brendan O’Hara said it could deal a “devastating blow” to Scotland’s fishing industry.

When challenged on the issue in the Commons, Johnson said fishing communities in Scotland would be able to “take back control if their entire coastal waters” and “drive an even better deal for even better access to European markets.”

Scotland’s voice is being ignored

A concern which has been repeatedly raised during the long drawn-out Brexit process is the fact the majority of people in Scotland voted against leaving the EU.

In the 2016 EU referendum, Scotland backed staying by 62 per cent to 38 per cent – with all 32 council areas backing Remain.

After Johnson announced his deal with the EU, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said it meant Scotland was now the only part of the UK being treated “unfairly”.

The deal being proposed means Northern Ireland, which also voted Remain, will still come under some EU customs rules.

Sturgeon said it was unacceptable for Scotland to be facing an outcome it did not vote for.

She said it would take Scotland out of the EU, out of the single market and out of the customs union “against the overwhelming democratic will of the people of Scotland”.

A recent report from think-tank the Institute of Government, which looked at the impact of no-deal, warned Brexit has put a “strain on relations” between the nations of the UK.

It said the Scottish and Welsh governments had been left feeling increasingly side-lined since 2016.

The report noted: “All major decisions on the Brexit strategy have been taken – more or less unilaterally – by UK ministers, with limited consultation with their devolved counterparts.”