In The National every day this week: what a hard Brexit will mean for Scotland

AFTER a lot of “shadow boxing” the real crunch for Scotland during the Brexit process may come with a “constitutional bust-up” over the Great Repeal Bill, according to Scotland’s constitutional Brexperts.

Professor Michael Keating, Professor of Politics at the University of Aberdeen and director of Economic and Social Research Centre on Constitutional Change, has followed the Brexit process since long before last June’s referendum.

Nothing much is happening at the moment, he feels, explaining:“The UK Government and the Scottish Government are miles apart, but the UK Government has been careful not to say no to anything though it hasn’t said yes to anything either and that could go on for months.

“The UK Government has said practically nothing about what Brexit actually means, except that we’ll be out of the single market but will want a comprehensive trade deal and we’ll be in the customs union for certain purposes, but the fact is we really have no idea what the UK Government’s position is and they want to keep that position to themselves.

“The Scottish Parliament has said we want to know what the UK Government is proposing but the UK Government is not prepared to do that, and as they are doing well at the polls they are under no pressure.

“It’s very difficult to pin them down; it’s very difficult to pick an argument when they are not actually saying anything. The UK Government and Scottish Government are a long way apart and at the moment it’s just shadow boxing.”

Professor Jo Shaw, Edinburgh University’s Salvesen Chair of European Institutions and director of the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, feels the real crunch could come when the Great Repeal Bill comes along, which the UK Government has said will happen in the Parliamentary session 2017-18.

Last month’s Supreme Court decision that the UK Government does not need to consult the Scottish Government over Brexit will not apply to the bill, she feels. Shaw said: “The real legislative battle will start over the so-called Great Repeal Bill which is the second piece of legislation that is needed to figure out which bits of EU law are passed into UK law.

“It would be impossible to argue the Sewel Convention does not apply, but the Supreme Court made it plain they were not going to interfere here, so it will, I’m sure, result in a constitutional bust-up.

“Even if the UK Government accepts some input from the Scottish Parliament there isn’t going to be an identity of view, given the very different political complexions of the two legislative houses.

“There will be a lot of political contention then. There are going to be very significant problems if the UK Government insists on sticking to the course is appears to have chosen, and I am sure we haven’t seen the last of litigation on this [issue] even if the courts are reluctant to get involved.”

So no matter how long the UK Government prevaricates, a constitutional contest is coming.