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Constitution, Europe, External Affairs and Culture Committee


Continuity Act

Overview

In December 2020 the Scottish Parliament passed the European Union (Continuity) (Scotland) Act 2021. This Act provides Ministers with powers to help meet the Scottish Government’s commitment that Scottish laws “keep pace” with future developments in EU law where appropriate. The Scottish Government has now drafted two documents in relation to these “keeping pace” powers, a Policy Statement* and an Annual Report*. The Committee would like to hear your views on these documents.

*We aim to make all of the information we publish fully accessible. However, when documents are provided by external organisations this is not always possible. If you need the document provided in an alternative format, please contact the clerk of the committee. Further information can be found in our accessibility statement.

The Act allows the Parliament 28 days to scrutinise both the draft policy statement and draft annual report and after the final versions have been laid, a further 28 days.

 

Accompanying Documents 

SG/2022/88:

SG/2022/89:

SG/2022/90:

Policy statement

The Act requires that Ministers must publish, a statement of their policy on:

  1. the approach to be taken
  2. the factors to be taken into account and
  3. the process to be followed

when considering whether to use the keeping pace power.

Annual Report

The Scottish Ministers must, for each reporting period, prepare and lay before the Scottish Parliament a report explaining:

  • how the keeping pace power has been used during the reporting period
  • how that use of the power contributes or has contributed towards maintaining and advancing standards in specified policy areas
  • how they intend to use the power following the reporting period;
  • how their intended use of the power would contribute towards maintaining and advancing standards in these areas
  • any use of the power that has been considered by the Scottish Ministers during the reporting period.

Background

During the passage of the UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Continuity) (Scotland) Act 2021, Scottish Government Ministers indicated that:

"The purpose of introducing the UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Continuity) (Scotland) Bill ('the Bill') is to enable the Scottish Ministers to make provision in secondary legislation to allow Scots law to be able to 'keep pace' with EU law in devolved areas, where appropriate."

The Programme for Government for 2021-22 stated:

"With a view to re-joining the EU as soon as we are able to, we will preserve Scotland's good relations with the EU and implement our commitment to align with EU standards and laws, and we will affirm the need for international cooperation to solve global issues."

Read a briefing by the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) on the commitment to align with EU law

Letter from Angus Robertson MSP, Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, External Affairs and Culture, on policy statement and annual report

Read a briefing from the Committee’s four advisers on the draft policy statement and the draft annual report

Submissions Received

On 29 October 2021 the Committee launched a call for views on the draft policy statement and draft annual report. The call for views closed to new submissions on 11 November 2021. The Committee received three responses.

Read these submissions

Report

Letter to Cabinet Secretary for Constitution, External Affairs and Culture

Oral evidence

18 November 2021

The Committee took evidence from:

Professor Kenneth Armstrong, Professor of European Law, University of Cambridge
Mhairi Snowden, Director, Human Rights Consortium Scotland
Angus Robertson, Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, External Affairs and Culture, Scottish Government
George Macpherson, Head of Policy and Alignment, Scottish Government
Lorraine Walkinshaw, Scottish Government Legal Directorate, Scottish Government

Committee papers

Papers for the meeting on 18 November 2021

Official Report (substantially verbatim transcript)

Official Report of the meeting on 18 November 2021

Correspondence

EU Alignment Finalised Continuity Act Docs

Letter from the Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, External Affairs and Culture, to the Convener on Continuity Act, 10 May 2022

Continuity act Letter to Cabinet Secretary for Constitution External Affairs and Culture

Letter from Convener to Cabinet Secretary for Constitution, External Affairs and Culture, 25 November 2021

COSLA contribution to Constitution Europe and External Affairs Inquiries

Letter from COSLA President to the Convener, 10 November 2021

Continuity Act Letter on policy statement and annual report

Letter from the Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, External Affairs and Culture to the Convener, 29 October 2021

Draft Statement of Policy by the Scottish Ministers

Draft Statement of Policy by the Scottish Ministers in Exercise of the power in Section 1 of the UK Withdrawal From The European Union (Continuity) (Scotland) Act 2021, 29 October 2021.

Draft report by Scottish Ministers

Draft report from the Scottish Ministers to the Committee, 21 October 2021

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