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The Scottish Government introduced the UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Legal Continuity) (Scotland) Bill on 27 February 2018. 


The Bill aimed to ensure that when the UK left the European Union, Scottish law continued to function without any interruptions or gaps. The Scottish Parliament agreed to treat it as an Emergency Bill – a Government Bill that needs to be enacted more quickly than normal.

The Bill did three main things:

  • kept European Union (EU) laws in Scottish law for areas that have been devolved to Scotland;
  • gave Scottish Ministers the power to make sure those devolved laws worked effectively after Brexit; and
  • gave Scottish Ministers the power to make sure devolved laws could keep pace with developments in EU law after Brexit

Lead Committee: Finance and Constitution Committee

Supreme Court ruling

Following the parliamentary passage of the Bill, and a reference under section 33 of the Scotland Act 1998 by the Attorney General and the Advocate General for Scotland, the Supreme Court ruled on 13 December 2018 that some provisions of the Bill were outside the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament. Consequently, the Bill could not be submitted for Royal Assent in its unamended form.

On 5 April 2019 the Scottish Government wrote to the Presiding Officer with an update on the Bill, stating that:

Scottish Ministers have reluctantly come to the conclusion that we should not at this point move for its reconsideration. This decision has been taken following a series of meetings with representatives of parties across the Chamber…I can confirm the Government’s intention to bring back the provisions on keeping pace with EU law in new legislation. The extent to which devolved law aligns itself with the law of the EU should be a decision for the Scottish Parliament to take, not the UK Government.

Cabinet Secretary for Constitutional Relations, Michael Russell MSP

A new UK Withdrawal from the EU (Continuity) (Scotland) Bill was subsequently introduced to the Scottish Parliament on 18 June 2020.

SPICe briefing

Full SPICe briefings on both the original Bill and the Supreme Court ruling are available. 

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