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The SNP motion was passed by 92 votes to 31 today – whilst an opposing Tory motion calling on Scottish ministers to “engage constructively with the UK Government” on the plans was rejected by 30 votes to 91. Downing Street and Whitehall sources told Express.co.uk they were disappointed by the result. Business Secretary Alok Sharma published a White Paper on the new laws earlier this month which will see measures which were previously managed by the EU return to the UK at the end of the year when the Brexit transition period expires.
The 160 policy areas including animal welfare, public procurement rules and environmental regulations will now go to one or more of the devolved administrations.
UK ministers have said the return of powers to the UK from Brussels will see the Northern Ireland administration receive responsibility in 157 of the 160 areas, Scotland in 111 and Wales in 70.
UK ministers characterise it as a “power surge” for devolved administrations as responsibilities are transferred from Brussels.
But the Scottish government say that the controversial plans are a “power grab by Westminster” and could leave the UK Government with a veto on Scottish laws passed at Holyrood.
The SNP Scottish government motion said the proposals are “incompatible with devolution and the democratic accountability of the Scottish Parliament”.
It added that it would also “fundamentally undermine legitimate devolved policy choices on a range of matters, including the environment, public health and social protection”.
Alex Rowley, Scottish Labour’s constitution spokesman, partially agreed and said any agreement on an internal market should be reached on a four-nation basis.
Mr Rowley said: “I want to make a direct plea to the UK Government to recognise that any arrangement for the UK internal market must be reached by agreement between the four nations of the UK.
“The idea that the Westminster Government can and will force its point of view on the other three nations regardless of what they think is not just ridiculous, it will almost certainly build support against remaining part of the UK and lead to the ultimate break-up of the United Kingdom as we know it.”
A Labour amendment, which warned Westminster’s plans could “hinder the capacity to utilise state aid interventions, including public ownership” was also passed by 91 votes to 31.
A Green amendment, stating the UK Government’s proposed legislation will be a “clear breach” of the 1998 Scotland Act, which led to the establishment of the Scottish Parliament, was also approved by 91 votes to 31.
But MSPs voted down a Liberal Democrat amendment calling for the current plans to “be replaced with proposals to assist a smooth-running UK internal market through agreed frameworks and joint decision-making between the four UK administrations in a federal arrangement”, with this defeated by 27 votes to 95.
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Speaking for the SNP in the debate, Jenny Gilruth said the White Paper included no mechanism for negotiation between the four governments of the UK.
She said: “This means that the UK Government can impose decisions on the devolved governments with no right of appeal and no means of redress.
“The Conservatives are kidding themselves if they can’t see this undermines the very foundations of devolution.”
Scottish Conservative MSP Dean Lockhart said the SNP’s EU Continuity Bill would lead to Holyrood becoming a “passive rule-taker” and impose the burdens of two regulatory systems on businesses.
Mr Lockhart, the party’s constitution spokesman, said the UK Government had transferred “unprecedented powers” to the Scottish Parliament over the last decade.
He said: “The internal market proposals cannot be viewed in isolation, they have to be viewed in the context of the significant new powers coming to this parliament.
“Because at the end of the transition period, the Scottish Parliament will enjoy a power surge, making this parliament more powerful than ever.”
But Whitehall sources tonight told Express.co.uk tonight the decision was “disappointing” stressing the Government were yet to name “a single power which could be removed from Holyrood.”
They stressed powers currently under the control of the EU would be transferred to Cardiff, Stormont and Holyrood stressing that it would be a “power boost” for devolution.
A source said: “The SNP should be working with Westminster on this matter in a cooperative manner.”
A UK Government spokesperson, added: “The proposals on which we have consulted will ensure the free flow of goods and services across every part of the UK, while respecting devolution.
“Many businesses depend on trade with the home nations more than any other partner. In Scotland, sales of produce to the rest of the UK are worth £51.2billion per year – accounting for more than 60 per cent of all exports.
“Powers that are currently under the control of the EU will be transferred to the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. This is a power surge for devolution.”
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