FM Calls For More Devolution On Anniversary

11 September 2017, 12:21 | Updated: 11 September 2017, 12:59

scottish parliament

Nicola Sturgeon has called for a new cross-party consensus on boosting the powers of Holyrood in the face of Brexit "threatening the underpinning principle" of devolution.

Scotland's First Minister said differences should be set aside to safeguard and enhance the devolution settlement 20 years on from the 1997 vote that established the Scottish Parliament.

Marking the anniversary with a speech in Edinburgh, Ms Sturgeon warned the UK Government's EU Withdrawal Bill sought to "erode the settlement the people of Scotland voted for" in 1997.

She said: "Even though there is still disagreement - passionate disagreement - about the final destination of our constitutional journey, we should nevertheless seek a new spirit of consensus to match that achieved in 1997.

"With Brexit now threatening the underpinning principle of devolution and many of our vital national interests, it is essential that we do so."

The Scottish Government is to publish a series of papers making the case for extending Holyrood's powers in areas such as employment, immigration and trade.

"The more powers our Parliament has, the more we can, collectively, do for Scotland," Ms Sturgeon said.

"I want to talk about how we can build a new consensus in 2017 to match the spirit of 1997.

"Respecting our differences and then working together - not as government and opposition - but as equal partners, to win more powers for the Parliament and assert and protect the rights of our Parliament.

"Everyone knows... that I believe that becoming an independent country would be the best future for Scotland and that as I said in June at the end of the Brexit process I believe that the people of Scotland should have a choice about our future direction as a country.

"Indeed at its heart independence is the natural extension of the principle that decisions should be taken in Scotland and that doing so improves the lives of people who live here.

"Others of course disagree completely with that. But the key point I'm making here today is this, 20 years ago that disagreement about the final destination did not stop us from working together to make progress where we could, and it shouldn't stop us today either."

Ms Sturgeon has repeatedly warned the EU Withdrawal Bill represents a "power grab" by Westminster when powers are repatriated from Brussels to London.

The First Minister said: "Today, ironically on the very anniversary of the vote to establish a Scottish Parliament, there is an attempt to erode the settlement that the people of Scotland voted for.

"The EU Withdrawal Bill which the UK Government is attempting to take through the House of Commons today, threatens the very principle on which our parliament is founded.

"The devolution settlement - the Scotland Act that established our parliament - is based on the quite genius principle, when you look back and consider it, that everything is automatically devolved unless it is explicitly reserved.

"The EU Withdrawal Bill turns that principle absolutely on its head. Westminster will decide what areas of already devolved policy will actually remain devolved in the future.

"So on the very day that we should be celebrating devolution, we are also being called upon to defend it."