MSPs appear to have a “fundamental misunderstanding” of vital Brexit legislation, a UK Government minister has said.
Scottish Secretary David Mundell made the comments as he hit out at the “constitutional hoo ha” that has led to Holyrood voting against the EU Withdrawal Bill.
The Scottish Parliament voted by around three to one against giving formal consent to the proposals, which have been branded it a “power grab” by SNP ministers.
While Westminster could still push the legislation through against the wishes of the Scottish Parliament – something which has never before been done – Brexit Minister Mike Russell insisted the UK must now “respect” Holyrood’s wishes.
Ministers in Edinburgh say changes must be made to the legislation, arguing that as it stands, the Bill could see Holyrood’s powers constrained for up to seven years.
But Mr Mundell dismissed the dispute as “politicking”, and said it was “almost incomprehensible” the row between the two administrations had reached this stage.
With more talks now set to take place he hinted there could be room for manouvre from Westminster, stressing: “The process of the Bill isn’t complete and our door is always open for discussion with the Scottish Government.”
But speaking on BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme, the Scottish Secretary said: “One of the disappointments I have, not just the vote yesterday, but actually when I reflected upon a lot of content of the debate there did seem to be a fundamental misunderstanding amongst many of the MSPs who contributed actually about what this bill is about.”
The Tory government minister insisted the legislation was a “very technical issue which has become the focal point of an unnecessary row”.
He stated: “What this is all about is managing a situation when powers return from Brussels to the United Kingdom and what needs to be done to ensure certainty when that happens to ensure there is a period of stability.
“It is about a technical process of agreeing things that we have already agreed, that is why I find it almost incomprehensible that we have got into this debate about what is really a very, very technical issue.”
The row centres over what should happen to powers returning to the UK from Brussels after Brexit. While the Scottish Government insists all powers should automatically come to it, ministers at Whitehall argue some powers must temporarily be held by the UK, to allow for common frameworks to be established in areas such as agriculture and fishing.
Scottish Government demands to drop a controversial clause from the legislation “would mean the Scottish Parliament essentially would have a veto over measures which applied across the whole of the United Kingdom,” Mr Mundell said.
He added: “I feel if we could put all the constitutional hoo ha, all the bickering and politicking aside both Scotland’s governments could work together to get us a really good deal from leaving the EU, and people across Scotland, that’s what they want. ”
He also insisted: “At the end of this process when Britain leaves the EU the Scottish Parliament will have more powers and responsibilities than it has today, and the Scottish Parliament in the last two years since the vow was enacted in the Scotland Act 2016 it has taken on powers and responsibilities for income tax, it is about to take forward its own welfare system for Scotland.
“So the idea that in the context of these huge changes in the balance of powers between Westminster and Holyrood somehow the UK Government would be out there waiting to grab control of crofting is just ridiculous.”