Brexit: Scottish Parliament passes the “Continuity Bill”

Date: 21st March 2018
Category: Other human rights treaties and mechanisms

On 21st March 2018, MSPs voted 95-32 to pass the Scottish Government's Brexit "Continuity Bill". The Bill was emergency legislation and had therefore been fast-tracked through the Scottish Parliament.

  • Read the Continuity Bill as passed here

The Bill is a contingency measure in case MSPs refuse to give legislative consent to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill currently going through Westminster. Both UK and Scottish ministers have said they would rather reach an agreement over post-Brexit powers than rely on the Continuity Bill. However, a final agreement on post-Brexit powers for Scotland has not yet been reached.

The Continuity Bill translates existing EU law in devolved areas into domestic (Scots) law. In this way, it takes a similar approach to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill. However, there are several important differences between the two Bills. Firstly, the Continuity Bill seeks to preserve the Charter of Fundamental Rights whereas the EU (Withdrawal) Bill expressly states this will be abandoned after Brexit. The Continuity Bill also includes a provision allowing Scottish Ministers to "keep up" with new developments in EU law by way of secondary legislation.

The intention to retain the Charter and keep up with positive developments at EU level has been welcomed in principle by Together, the Scottish Human Rights Commission, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Human Rights Consortium Scotland and the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations. A joint statement to this effect was published on 21st March 2018.

  • Read the joint statement here.
  • Read Human Rights Consortium Scotland briefing on the Continuity Bill here.

Some doubts have been expressed over whether the Continuity Bill is within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament. There is now a period of four weeks in which a legal challenge to the Bill's competence can be lodged in the Supreme Court.