Summary

The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) and Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA) are requesting that Scottish and Welsh MP give their backing to the cross-party tabling of amendments from the Scottish and Welsh Governments’.

SCVO and WCVA have analysed the amendments proposed by the Scottish and Welsh Governments’ and believe they are closely in line with our thinking on this matter. As such, we have agreed to offer joint backing to these amendments. We consider our backing of these amendments ensures the interests of Scotland and Wales are suitably represented.

SCVO and WCVA are both members of the Repeal Bill Alliance, a UK wide coalition with aims to ensure transparency throughout the process of the Bill and prevent excessive transfer of power from parliament to government.

Principle

SCVO and WCVA have long supported the devolution process and have consistently pushed to enhance the powers of the devolved parliaments – where we believe it makes sense to do so. While we believe there may be a case for some shared UK frameworks, we hold concerns that the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill circumvents current assumptions about how devolution works – namely that power not explicitly reserved should be automatically devolved to the Scottish and Welsh administrations. We remain unconvinced that any powers brought to Westminster would be fully devolved at a later date when time permitted.

Third Sector Influence

Generally speaking, Scottish and Welsh third sector organisations enjoy a robust, ‘critical friend’ relationship with the devolved administrations and all parties from across the political spectrum. The influence of the sector has been clear to see in a number of key areas where positive developments have been made. Primarily due to logistics, access and sector capacity, the same relationships are not always in place at a UK level. We believe that the transfer of powers to the devolved administrations would therefore make it easier for the sector to influence their use in a positive way.

Unique Challenges

Scotland and Wales face many unique challenges – which require targeted solutions. One of the most attractive arguments in favour of a greater devolution of powers is that the Scottish and Welsh Ministers can react to these specific challenges and, with the right powers at their disposal, shape tailored solutions.

The Right Time

There is no doubt that the UK Government approach to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill would dramatically simplify the process of transferring powers. However, in this instance, the easy option does not look like to be the right option. The lack of transparency surrounding decision making and the stock transfer of powers from the legislature to the executive is, in our view, a retrograde step. We are firmly of the view that an open conversation about where power lies (particularly in terms of the devolved settlement) is one which should happen in tandem with the withdrawal process and not at an unspecified time in the future.

Conclusion

The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill will fundamentally alter the UK’s constitutional settlement. This will not only have implications for the relationship between the UK and the rest of the world, but also within a devolved UK context.

As long-time supporters of and campaigners for devolution, we do hold reservations about the Bill as it stands and fear it represents a challenge to assumptions about devolution. In view of this, and to ensure a transparent and inclusive discussion about where powers best lie, we encourage MPs from Scotland and Wales to offer their full support to the cross-party tabling of amendments from the Scottish and Welsh Governments’.