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Is Brexit eroding the Sewel convention?

The founding legislation of the Scottish Parliament – the Scotland Act 1998 – made clear that devolution did ‘not affect the power of the Parliament of the United Kingdom to make laws for Scotland’. However, the constitutional convention that the Westminster parliament will not normally legislate with regard to devolved matters, or alter the competences of the devolved institutions, without the consent of the Scottish Parliament, has been widely considered to be a cornerstone of the devolution settlement.


The symbolic significance of the Sewel convention was underlined by its inclusion, in part at least, in the Scotland Act 2016, following the recommendation of the cross-party Smith Commission to put Sewel on a statutory footing. Concerns were raised at the time that the Scotland Act 2016 did not go as far as the Smith Commission had intended. It failed to put the process and substance of the convention into statute and failed to provide clarity about the presumably abnormal situations where the convention may not apply.

These limitations have been exposed by the Brexit process…

Continue reading at SPICE’s Brexit Blog

The author

Nicola McEwen is Professor in Territorial Politics at the University of Edinburgh & Co-Director of the Centre on Constitutional Change. She contributes regularly to different committees and constitutional commissions at the Scottish Parliament, find some of her parliamentary contributions here

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