Scottish Parliament votes against triggering of Brexit process; Tories brand it 'grievance politics'

UK legislation to remove Britain from the European Union should not proceed, according to Scottish politicians.

Holyrood voted by 90 to 34 for a motion from the Scottish Government saying the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill should not proceed.

It came after a heated debate in the Scottish Parliament, in which Brexit Minister Mike Russell warned Theresa May's plans for a hard Brexit will lead to a "hard Britain".

While the Supreme Court has already ruled the UK Government does not need to consult the devolved administrations before it starts the formal process of leaving the EU, Mr Russell insisted the debate in Edinburgh was ''more than symbolic''.

The SNP joined together with most Labour MSPs, the Greens and the Liberal Democrats to vote against the triggering of Article 50.

Tory MSPs, however, voted against the motion, along with three Labour rebels - Elaine Smith, Neil Findlay and Richard Leonard.

Former Scottish Government cabinet secretary Alex Neil, who previously revealed he voted to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum, has not yet returned to Parliament after undergoing a heart procedure.

With 62% of Scots voting Remain in the referendum, SNP ministers are seeking some way of keeping Scotland in the single market.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and others have warned time is running out for the UK Government to reach an agreement which could prevent a second referendum on Scottish independence.

After the vote at Holyrood, Mr Russell said: "Scotland's national Parliament has today sent a clear message to the rest of the UK and Europe - we oppose a catastrophic hard Brexit that dumps Scotland outside of the single market against its wishes.

"The Prime Minister promised Scotland would be 'fully engaged' in agreeing a common UK approach to triggering Article 50. We have taken those promises at face value and developed constructive, detailed compromise proposals showing how we can keep our place in the single market, which is around eight times bigger than the UK's alone.

"Yet so far the UK Government has offered nothing - not a single compromise in return, or even a view on our proposals.

"We do not yet know when Article 50 will be triggered, and have not been given any information about how the UK Government will seek our involvement. The promise of a 'UK agreement' on its content looks to be an empty one.

"Today's vote is therefore a key test of whether Scotland's voice is being listened to and whether our wishes can be accommodated within the UK process.

"There is still time for the UK Government to recognise the existence and importance of devolution, the views of this Parliament and the clear, democratically expressed voice of the people of this country - but that time is running out."

Tories blasted the Scottish Government, accusing ministers of "grievance politics" and making "weekly threats" about another vote on independence.

Tory MSP John Lamont said: "The Scottish Government's default point is to try to manufacture a grievance out of nothing.

"Despite the rhetoric from the Scottish Government, the reality is there is plenty of opportunity to engage in the process of the UK leaving the EU."

He pointed to meetings of the Joint Ministerial Committee - which brings together the UK Government and the devolved assemblies - and to the fact that Theresa May's first visit after entering Downing Street was to see Ms Sturgeon in Edinburgh.

"It is clear that the Prime Minister has tried to give the Scottish Government every opportunity to engage in this process," he said.

"I can see no compromise in the SNP's positions, they are obsessed with stocking up the politics of grievance and their agenda for independence and nothing else.

"Instead of constantly trying to undermine the process, the Scottish Government really should get on with the job of getting the best deal for Scotland. Their current grandstanding is putting that at risk."

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said the result of the vote "is a sign that the Tories cannot be allowed to get away with a hard Brexit unchecked".

But he also stressed: "It was not a vote to give the green light for the SNP to use the Brexit vote as a catalyst for their ambitions for independence.

"The Conservatives' changing stance on Brexit will damage the economy, the SNP's pursual of independence will do even more damage to the economy and Labour, who have given up on Europe, are completely failing as an opposition.

"Liberal Democrats remain clear that we want to give the British people a say on the terms on Brexit so we can keep both Scotland in the UK and the UK in the EU."

A UK Government spokesman said: "The British people made the decision to leave the EU and the UK Government is determined to get on with the job of delivering it.

"To do that we will work with the Scottish Government to ensure the best deal for Scotland and the whole of the UK.

"The Scottish Parliament is free to debate any issue it chooses, and indeed has discussed Brexit on many occasions.

"The First Minister herself recognises that the Scottish Parliament has no veto over Westminster's vote to trigger Article 50."


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