Brexit and the environment: A look at how the UK legislatures’ Committees are preparing. Part 2- The Scottish Parliament

Published 15/11/2017   |   Last Updated 27/05/2021   |   Reading Time minutes

This series of four blog posts provides an update on committee activity across the UK legislatures relating to the potential impacts of Brexit on environmental and agricultural policy. It also explores areas that will have impact on these policy areas including international trade, immigration and any potential changes to devolution settlements.

This series sign-posts to committee inquiries held during the summer and autumn and will cover 1) The National Assembly for Wales, 2) The Scottish Parliament, 3) The House of Commons and 4) The House of Lords (with recognition that Northern Ireland Assembly Committees remain dissolved).

This post covers the Scottish Parliament and follows yesterday’s article exploring the National Assembly for Wales.

The next post will explore the work of the House of Commons.


1. Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee

This is the Scottish Parliament’s lead committee for co-ordinating Brexit-related activities.

Article 50 Inquiry

The on-going inquiry is exploring the Article 50 negotiations and their implications for Scotland. In terms of environmental implications, evidence submitted from the Scottish Environment Link identifies the following priorities:

  • to incorporate existing EU environmental protection standards and laws into domestic law, highlighting that this should not be an opportunity for deregulation;
  • to ensure all policies contribute to the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals;
  • to ensure mechanisms are in place so that the UK can meet its international commitments on climate change, biodiversity, marine protection and environmental governance; and
  • to safeguard further funding for environmental research and nature conservation projects in the absence of EU funding.

Immigration Inquiry

The inquiry is exploring how the UK’s immigration policy can best respond to Scotland’s demographic and skills needs. In terms of implications for the agricultural sector, evidence submitted by the National Farmers Union Scotland (NFUS) states:

  • trade arrangements with Europe and the rest of the world must enable farming and food processing industries to access workers, particularly the fruit and vegetable sector which depends on non-UK harvest labour;
  • a UK wide system would be beneficial as migrant workers tend to move from the south of England to Scotland over the harvest season; and
  • NFUS believes a specific Agricultural Labour Scheme would be the best solution.

Other Committee activity

The Committee met the European Commission’s Chief Negotiator for Brexit, Michel Barnier, on 11 September. Topics discussed included; the progress of Article 50 negotiations; the respective positions of the EU and the UK from the European Commission’s perspective; and Scottish concerns. Committee Convener, Joan McAlpine, said ‘a majority of the Committee favoured remaining in the single market’.

Along with two other Committees of the Scottish Parliament, the Committee has established an External Experts Panel to assist it with its work. The Panel is a joint initiative with the Centre on Constitutional Change, based at the University of Edinburgh. Llun: Yr Ynys Hir (yn yr Alban)

2. Finance and Constitution Committee

European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

On 19 September, the Scottish Government’s Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland’s Place in Europe, Michael Russell, wrote to the Committee outlining 111 areas of Scottish devolved responsibility that would be affected by the current drafting of clause 11 of the EU (Withdrawal) Bill (‘Withdrawal Bill’) which provides for the ‘freezing’ of the Scottish Parliament’s competence in relation to EU law.

On 20 September, the Committee took evidence from Michael Russell, on the Scottish Government’s Legislative Consent Memorandum (LCM) (PDF 478KB) on the Withdrawal Bill which lists the clauses it believes are subject to Legislative Consent. On 4 October the Committee took evidence on the LCM from Mark Drakeford, Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Local Government, and Hugh Rawlings, Director, Constitutional Affairs, Welsh Government.

The Impact of Brexit on the Scottish Budget

A key question the Committee is asking is whether there will be a different impact from Brexit in Scotland than in the rest of the UK. In terms of agricultural support, evidence was submitted by the NFUS, primarily focussing upon spending commitments and budget formulations up to 2022:

  • the NFUS will make strong representations to ensure the HM Treasury’s Autumn Statement has allocated and ring-fenced funding to match the CAP funding to the end of the next Parliament in 2022 as committed to in the Conservative Party’s 2017 manifesto;
  • the NFUS would support the Scottish Government in any push for clarity from HM Treasury on how the funding will be delivered to the devolved government; and
  • post-2022, the NFUS position is that HM Treasury should finance the new agricultural policy on a UK-wide funding framework, but with the devolved administrations given the policy tools and levers to ensure the agricultural policy works for all four parts of the UK. Any approach that adopts a ‘Defra-centric’, one-size-fits-all policy on to the devolved nations would not be acceptable.

Other Committee activity

Michael Russell appeared before the Committee in June to discuss Brexit developments (PDF 452KB). He told the Committee that the JMC(EN) which is meant to meet monthly, last met in February. Michael Russell suggested that JMC(EN) meetings should be set up to coincide with the agreed pattern of Article 50 negotiating meetings.

3. Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee

Implications of the outcome of the EU Referendum for Scotland

The Committee has looked at the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors receiving evidence from Confor; NFUS; Scottish Environment Link, Scottish Land and Estates. In addition it is expecting to explore issues around transport, digital and food and drink at a later stage. The Committee has appointed Mike Rumbles MSP as EU reporter to monitor and assess the impact on issues within the Committee’s remit.

4. Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee

The Committee has a wide range of on-going inquiries in areas such as land reform, air quality and climate change. None of them are specifically focussed on Brexit, instead the Committee has requested that the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee considers the impacts on the environment and efforts to tackle climate change within the scope of its work on Brexit.

5. Scottish Parliament's Information Centre (SPICe)- Parliamentary Research Service

SPICe publishes weekly Brexit updates.

SPICe published a briefing in August on The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill: Implications for Scotland.

Article by Katy Orford, National Assembly for Wales Research Service