Laws in Scotland should keep pace with those in the European Union after the Brexit transition period ends, Scottish ministers have said.
Constitution Secretary Mike Russell said a new Bill at Holyrood will mean that on devolved matters, Scottish law can keep in line with those in Europe “when appropriate and practicable to do so”.
The Scottish Government says its UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Continuity) (Scotland) Bill will provide for continuity of provision that would otherwise be lost with Brexit.
The legislation will give Scottish ministers a discretionary power to align Scots law with EU legislation after the transition period ends on December 31.
The Bill also includes provisions to ensure EU environment principles and governance can continue in Scotland.
A new body called Environmental Standards Scotland will be set up to ensure compliance with environmental law.
Mr Russell said: “It is completely unacceptable that Scotland has been taken out of the EU but this Bill will enable us, in devolved areas at least, to ‘keep pace’ with Europe, when appropriate and practicable to do so.
“It is required as a direct result of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, and is more urgent because of the UK Government’s reckless refusal to ask for an extension to the Brexit transition period.
“The Bill’s proposals on environmental principles and governance will also help us to maintain high standards, in line with the EU, in Scotland.
“These important measures complement our Environment Strategy for Scotland vision, published in February, to help us as we protect and restore Scotland’s natural environment and strive to live within our planet’s sustainable limits.
“It proposes the creation of a new governance body – Environmental Standards Scotland – which will be able to investigate whether public authorities are failing to comply with environmental law, to take steps to ensure public authorities remedy any failure to comply with environmental law, as well as to investigate the effectiveness and delivery of environmental law by public authorities.”
Mr Russell discussed the Bill further at the Scottish Parliament’s Constitution Committee on Friday
Tory MSP Murdo Fraser said that from December, EU laws will be made without input from anyone in the UK.
He asked Mr Russell: “What the Scottish Government seem to be proposing in this Bill is that Scottish ministers will have the power at their discretion to determine whether these new EU laws would become part of Scots law.
“There won’t be a need for any detailed consultation and parliamentary scrutiny – they will be imposed by regulation.
“Is this not just a power grab by Scottish ministers?”
Mr Russell denied that would be the case, saying: “Law cannot be conveyed by the Scottish Parliament at any time without scrutiny… There is no mechanism to do so without scrutiny so that is a false assumption.”