Sun 22 Oct, 2017

It's right that as Greens we step up our fight to protect EU citizens who have made their home in Scotland, and that we send a message that Scotland remains a welcoming country. Ross Greer MSP

Scottish Greens meeting at their Autumn conference in Edinburgh today (22 Oct) agreed to call on the Scottish Government to commit to democratic use of Brexit powers and to not follow the example of the UK Government, who are using the EU Withdrawal Bill to cut parliament out of the Brexit process as much as possible.

Members supported a motion which noted that Scotland voted neither for a Tory UK government nor for Brexit, and that the EU Withdrawal Bill should be denied the legislative consent of the Scottish Parliament.

Members also voted for a motion agreeing to secure the rights of EU citizens who live in Scotland and to fight for free movement between the European Union and Scotland to continue.

The motion calls for the devolution of immigration & asylum powers to Holyrood, in common with a number of other sub-state parliaments and assemblies across the world, such as those in Canada.

Ross Greer MSP, External Affairs spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, said:

“The Tories’ Hard Brexit disaster looms ever closer, and it's right that as Greens we step up our fight to protect EU citizens who have made their home in Scotland, and that we send a message that Scotland remains a welcoming country.

“The Repeal Bill in its current form is utterly unacceptable. The UK Government needs to listen to Scotland, listen to EU citizens who live and work here and reform its approach urgently. In this form, the Repeal Bill cannot be passed and Green MSPs will withhold our legislative consent.”

The Brexit Repeal Bill motion reads:

Conference notes the publication of the UK Government’s Repeal Bill, whose purpose is to repeal the 1972 European Communities Act and transfer European law into UK law, as well as to give the governments of the UK powers to change these laws as they see necessary, particularly through the use of so-called ‘Henry VIII powers’ which allow government ministers to unilaterally make such changes without seeking the agreement or in some cases even the notification of the relevant parliaments. The bill also gives the UK Government the power to unilaterally implement UK-wide frameworks in relation to devolved competencies eg. agriculture, showing Conservative promises of Holyrood, Cardiff and Stormont being directly empowered by Brexit to be false.

The Scottish Green Party subscribes to the Global Green principle of radical, grassroots democracy, to which the provisions of the Repeal Bill are opposed. We call for the following:

• An emergency break power for the parliaments & assemblies of the UK to activate if they believe government ministers are abusing their Henry VIII powers.

• The removal of ministers’ ability to enact regulations on ‘urgent’ matters without informing parliament.

• The reversal of current proposals to favour negative procedures and instead insert a presumption in favour of affirmative instruments to ensure adequate parliamentary scrutiny. Restrictive criteria for negative instruments should be specified within the bill.

If the above amendments to the bill are not made, the Scottish Green Party calls on the Scottish Government to commit to a collectively-agreed terms of reference for their use of its powers and not to follow the example of a UK Government going to great lengths to avoid parliamentary scrutiny.

The Repeal Bill will have a profound effect on the devolved settlement and represents a potential powergrab by UK ministers. To ensure that the principle of devolution is not undermined by the Brexit process:

• There must be no new reservations or restrictions on the Scottish Parliament as part of the UK-wide framework on devolved areas.

• Areas of EU law that are currently predominately implemented by the Scottish Parliament, such as agriculture and fisheries, must be devolved to the Scottish Parliament instead of being reserved to Westminster.

• Safeguards must be introduced to the Repeal Bill to prevent UK Government Ministers from legislating in devolved areas without the consent of the Scottish Parliament.

• The need for further devolution must be urgently explored.

We are concerned that the Charter of Fundamental Rights is one area of European law which the UK Government do not propose transposing. Given the record and rhetoric of this Conservative government the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights must be included in retained EU law to be used as a benchmark to ensure subsequent legislation under the powers of the Repeal Bill is compliant with fundamental rights. Any change that seeks to alter a rights-standard must undergo full legislative scrutiny. Given the serious concerns with this Bill, its incompatibility with Green principles and the unchanged reality that Scotland voted neither for this UK government nor for Brexit, the Scottish Green Party believes the European Union (Withdrawal Bill) should be opposed and that the legislative consent of the Scottish Parliament should be withheld.

The motion on EU Citizens reads:

The Scottish Green Party reaffirm our belief in a world beyond borders and the right of all peoples to freedom of movement. We will seek to secure the rights of EU citizens who live in Scotland and will fight for free movement between the European Union and Scotland to continue.

We call on the UK Government to either agree to allow full free movement with the EU to continue across the UK after Brexit or alternatively, to devolve migration and other relevant powers to Holyrood to allow free movement with the EU to continue for Scotland.

We reject the existing offer made by the UK Government on EU citizens rights in June 2017 as inadequate.

The Scottish Green Party calls on the Westminster Government to reform the UK immigration system, removing its current cruel, bureaucratic and arbitrary nature.

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