The Scottish Affairs Committee has launched an inquiry examining the effectiveness of existing mechanisms for intergovernmental relations, particularly in relation to the overlap of reserved and devolved powers, and the Brexit negotiation process and replacement of EU common frameworks.
At present, the division of responsibility for different areas of public policy, and on-going process of the devolution of new powers, means that the UK and Scottish Governments work closely in a number of areas. This includes the implementation of changes to the devolution settlement, policy areas relating to both reserved and devolved powers, and the implications of changes to UK policy that will affect Scotland.
The main forum for managing relations and resolving disputes is the Joint Ministerial Committee, established following the Memorandum of Understanding that also sets out principles for communication, consultation and information sharing between administrations. There are also dedicated mechanisms for resolving disputes relating to the fiscal framework. In some cases, such as with the Scottish Parliament’s Continuity Bill, disputes can be settled by the UK Supreme Court.
Launching the new inquiry, Committee Chair Pete Wishart commented:
"There is little doubt that the Brexit negotiation process and work to replace EU common frameworks has demonstrated significant policy differences between the UK and Scottish Governments. It is therefore right that, when we see disputes settled in front of the Supreme Court, we ask if the mechanisms for ensuring good cooperation and communication are working as well as they need to.
We will be assessing how effective current mechanisms are, and asking how we can establish ways of working that enable the development of the best policies for the people of Scotland. We expect to hear from representatives of each national government, but will also look for lessons from comparable systems of devolution across the globe."
Call for written submissions
The Committee invites evidence on the following questions:
- What machinery currently exists to support intergovernmental relations between the UK and Scottish governments?
- How effective has the UK’s intergovernmental machinery been in managing and mitigating disputes? How might this be improved?
- Is there a need for greater transparency of intergovernmental relations, and if so, how should be achieved?
- How have the UK’s intergovernmental relations systems evolved and adapted to respond to different administrations?
- What lessons can be learned from how other nations manage relations between different levels of government?
- What new machinery might be necessary post-Brexit, particularly in relation to the creation of common UK frameworks, and how should they operate?
The deadline for written evidence is 23 November 2018.
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