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  1. The Finance and Constitution Committee takes evidence on the Brexit continuity bill
  2. MSPs quiz education ministers during portfolio questions
  3. MSPs back the general principles of the UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Legal Continuity) (Scotland) Bill.
  4. The member's debate focuses on electronic and internet voting

Live Reporting

By Louise Wilson and Craig Hutchison

All times stated are UK

That's all from Holyrood Live

Mike Russell and Adam Tomkins
Brexit Minister Mike Russell and Tory MSP Mike Russell clash over the Continuity Bill

That's all from Holyrood Live on Wednesday 7 March 2018.

MSPs backed the general principles of the UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Legal Continuity) (Scotland) Bill.

94 MSPs voted for them, whereas 30 voted against.

So Stage 1 of the Continuity Bill is hurdled, on to a busy Stage 2 next week.

Scottish government seeking views on electoral reform

Parliamentary Business Minister Joe FitzPatrick
Parliamentary Business Minister Joe FitzPatrick

Parliamentary Business Minister Joe FitzPatrick says the Scottish government is keen to explore how technological innovation can increase access to democracy.

This may mean trialing electronic voting machines and researching internet voting, he states.

E-counting at local government elections has been successful, notes Mr FitzPatrick.

The minister urges people to respond to the Scottish government's consultation on electoral reform, which he confirms will be extended until the end of March.

Green MSP sceptical of electronic voting

Green MSP Patrick Harvie
Green MSP Patrick Harvie

Green MSP Patrick Harvie begins by stating his party has not adopted any policy on electronic voting so he is speaking in a personal capacity.

He says electronic voting would need to be secure, anonymous and verifiable.

Mr Harvie adds that a solution to these issues would likely be complex, which may result in a reduction of trust by the public.

He concludes by suggesting the Scottish government not to proceed with a trial at this stage.

Labour MSP raises concerns about election rigging

Labour MSP Alex Rowley

Labour MSP Alex Rowley says he supports the principle of encouraging more people to vote.

Mr Rowley says he does not see internet and electronic voting as the panacea for low turnout, but he says good practice can be picked up from other countries.

He raises concerns about election rigging.

The Labour MSP says both the Netherlands and Norway gave on electronic voting and returned to paper.

He says the move to electronic voting will not happen anytime soon.

Cost reduction should not be used as reason to change system says Tory MSP

Tory MSP Jamie Halcro Johnson
Tory MSP Jamie Halcro Johnson

Tory MSP Jamie Halcro Johnson notes concerns that people voting electronically could be subject to more influence by those around them.

He disagrees with the view that electronic voting could reduce costs, stating that some requirements may cost more than current methods.

Mr Halcro Johnson also argues cost reduction should not be the focal point of any argument on changing how people vote.

Call to make voting cheaper and more accessible

Computer, tablet, mobile phone

In his motion Mr Stevenson accepts there are important security considerations relating to confidentiality and eligibility that must first be resolved, before internet voting can be introduced.

The SNP MSP says when these issues are resolved and public confidence is earned, electronic voting has the potential to deliver lower cost elections and improve voter turnout.

He says the Scottish government’s consultation on electoral reform provides an opportunity to further investigate the potential benefits of electronic and internet voting systems.

Background: Has the time now come for internet voting?

The ability to vote by smartphone would engage young people in politics, say campaigners
The ability to vote by smartphone would engage young people in politics, say campaigners

The use of internet - or electronic - voting in elections is growing. But there are still plenty of concerns about reliability, safety and privacy.

Will electing your government via the tap of a smartphone ever catch on?

Last year people in the UK voted in a general electonion, heading to polling stations at schools, libraries and other public buildings to put a cross on a piece of paper.

In the digital era, it all seems quaintly archaic.

Bad weather can put people off going to vote, while others forget to register or might be away on holiday and not have arranged a postal vote.

Couldn't technology remove some of these barriers to democratic involvement?

Read more here.

'Is more convenient voting of value?'

SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson
SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson

SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson runs us through the history of voting from oral voting to ballot papers and the ballot box.

Mr Stevenson says today's system works pretty well and has the public's confidence.

He asks the question: "Is more convenient voting of value?"

The SNP MSP stresses the importance of security, anonymity and verifiability.

Here's the motion for the debate............


Electronic and internet voting debate

Electronic voting

SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson will now lead a debate on electronic and internet voting.

Mr Stevenson uses his motion to say the latest digital technology has the potential to be developed for electronic and internet voting and deliver electors flexibility in their choice of voting method.

He says the traditional paper voting method has remained virtually unchanged since 1872 and has yet to benefit from advancements in technology.

The SNP MSP says the government should heed calls by the Institution of Engineering and Technology for government to embrace the latest knowledge in electronic voting, which it believes will encourage more young people to vote.

Mr Stevenson says paper voting has remained virtually unchanged since 1872

Abandoning Sewel would be extreme says minister

Getty Images

The Brexit minister says there are a range of ways of dealing with the detail of the bill.

If the UK government is determined not to reach an agreement, there will not be an agreement, he says.

The Sewel convention should apply and should go on applying, Mr Russell states.

He suggests it would be an "extreme step" to abandon the convention.

"You abandoned it!", come the cries from the Tory benches.

'Phrases do make history'

Brexit Minister Mike Russell
Brexit Minister Mike Russell

Brexit Minister Mike Russell says he is concerned at the language from the Tory front bench today.

Mr Russell says presenting the issues in an accurate way is crucially important.

He criticises Donald Cameron's use of language in his speech uttering "disgrace" and "illegal" and Maurice Golden's use of "wildcat legislation"

He reiterates: "Phrases do make history."

'We'll oppose this wretched, wrecking bill at decision time'

Mr Cameron labels the speed at which this bill is going through parliament as "farcical".

There are serious concerns that this bill goes beyond the EU Withdrawal Bill, he says, pointing to the adopting of the charter of fundamental rights.

Uncertainty and a lack of clarity in the law will be the result of this bill, the member argues.

"We'll oppose this retched, wrecking bill at decision time."

Donald Cameron

"The real tragedy is the timing of this bill."

He argues the Scottish and UK governments were close to a deal prior to the introduction of this bill.

It drives a horse and coaches through the cross-party agreement that clause 11 was unacceptable, Mr Cameron adds.

"We'll oppose this wretched, wrecking bill at decision time", he concludes.

Tories will be voting against the general principles of the Continuity Bill

Tory MSP Donald Cameron and Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh
Tory MSP Donald Cameron and Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh

Tory MSP Donald Cameron says his party will be voting against the Continuity Bill at Stage One.

Mr Cameron says Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh's opinion on the legislative competence of this bill has been ignored by the SNP.

Mr Macintosh has said the bill falls outwith the Scottish Parliament's remit.

Meanwhile Scotland's Lord Advocate has defended the "continuity bill" .

Mr Cameron says: "Presiding officer your are the gate keeper."

Labour MSP says truncated scrutiny period is of 'real concern'

Labour MSP James Kelly says this bill is a result of the failure to resolve the issues surrounding clause 11 of the EU Withdrawal Bill.

He attributes this to internal issues in the Conservative party.

On legislative competence, Mr Kelly says MSPs are in uncharted territory given the difference in opinion.

He hopes that issue will be resolved in the process rather than having to go to court, urging both the presiding officer and Lord Advocate to publish legal advice they received.

Labour MSP James Kelly
Labour MSP James Kelly

The truncated scrutiny period is of "real concern", the Labour MSP says, pointing to a number of areas which need to be addressed.

He urges the Conservatives to come up with a solution to the issues in the EU Withdrawal Bill, saying this will avoid many of the problems with the Continuity Bill.

'Oh boy is there a devil in this detail'

Lib Dem MSP Mike Rumbles
Lib Dem MSP Mike Rumbles

Lib Dem MSP Mike Rumbles says he will be supporting the general principles of the Continuity Bill.

However Mr Rumbles says as ever the devil is in the detail.

He adds: "Oh boy is there a devil in this detail"

Mr Rumbles says the Continuity Bill takes powers away from Hoyrood and gives them to Scottish government ministers.

He urges the removal of Section 13 from the bill and he says the powers of primary legislation must not be taken away.

SNP MSP Joan McAlpine says EU Withdrawal Bill is an 'act of vandalism'

SNP MSP Joan McAlpine
SNP MSP Joan McAlpine

SNP MSP Joan McAlpine says the EU Withdrawal Bill is an "act of vandalism against this parliament".

Ms McAlpine warns against the "power grab" it represents.

Parliament was promised more powers after Brexit says SNP MSP

SNP MSP Kate Forbes
SNP MSP Kate Forbes

SNP MSP Kate Forbes says there were promises that Brexit would lead to more powers for Scotland.

Yet the EU Withdrawal Bill and even the proposed amendment would restrict Holyrood's powers, she warns.

We will not sign away responsibility no matter how temporarily, Ms Forbes concludes.

'It is a matter of profound disappointment and regret that we are having this debate'

Labour MSP Neil Bibby
Labour MSP Neil Bibby

"It is a matter of profound disappointment and regret that we are having this debate," says Labour MSP Neil Bibby.

He points to joint efforts to amend the EU Withdrawal Bill across parties and devolved administrations.

The parliament and public are still unaware what the 25 areas of remaining disagreement are and he wonders why this information is not available.

Continuity Bill is a back-up plan says SNP MSP

SNP MSP Fulton Macgregor
SNP MSP Fulton Macgregor

SNP MSP Fulton Macgregor says ministers have made it clear that the Continuity Bill is a back-up plan should no agreement be reached on the Withdrawal Bill.

He suggests that, despite its emergency status, this bill is still being intensely scrutinised.

SNP has allowed its panic to invent an emergency says Tory MSP

We are told never to panic in an emergency, yet the SNP has allowed its panic to invent an emergency, Tory MSP Rachael Hamilton begins.

She urges the Scottish government to work with the UK government to get the best out of Brexit.

Tory MSP Rachael Hamilton
Tory MSP Rachael Hamilton

Bill is 'absolutely necessary'

SNP MSP Stuart McMillan
SNP MSP Stuart McMillan

SNP MSP Stuart McMillan accuses the UK government of "acting like petulant children".

If the UK government bring forward amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill which are agreeable, this Bill will be withdrawn, he explains.

Noting timescale issues, Mr McMillan says: "It is absolutely necessary for this bill to be brought forward as emergency legislation."

'A salacious attempt to launch a second independence campaign'

Tory MSP Maurice Golden
Tory MSP Maurice Golden

Tory MSP Maurice Golden argues the bill is "a salacious attempt to launch a second independence campaign".

He accepts there are challenges to overcome before Holyrood can grant consent to the EU Withdrawal Bill, but he expresses confidence that a deal can be made.

Bill is 'correct and proportionate' says SNP MSP

SNP MSP Tom Arthur
SNP MSP Tom Arthur

"That the powers of this parliament are under threat is not in dispute," SNP MSP Tom Arthur notes, pointing to the Finance and Constitution Committee's report on the EU Withdrawal Bill.

The continuity bill is a correct and proportionate measure to create a safety net should an agreement in the EU Withdrawal Bill not be reached, he argues.

'We have not had time to pause or to catch breath'

Labour MSP Claire Baker
Labour MSP Claire Baker

Labour MSP Claire Baker says this is unlike any Stage One debate she has ever been involved in.

Ms Baker says: "We have not had time to pause or to catch breath."

This leads to concerns about the scrutiny of the bill she says.

The government need to be more transparent about the points of contention between the government,s insists Ms Baker.

SNP MSP fears UK government witholding 25 EU powers from Scotland

SNP MSP Alex Neil
SNP MSP Alex Neil

SNP MSP Alex Neil says he was concerned by reports at the weekend that the UK government was intent on freezing the powers of the Scottish Parliament and not passing on 25 EU powers.

Mr Neil says his worry is that these briefings suggest a change of policy and the UK government is digging in its heels and deciding Scotland will not get the 25 powers.

He says these devolved powers should be repatriated to Holyrood as they belong to it.

Mary Berry, custard pies, custard tarts and the Continuity Bill

Tory MSP Jackson Carlaw
Tory MSP Jackson Carlaw

Tory MSP Jackson Carlaw defends Mary Berry, referring to Mr Findlay's comment that this bill was one of her custard pies for the Scottish Conservative party leader.

Mr Carlaw inists Ms Berry would create a custard tart not a pie and refuses an intervention from Neil Findlay saying he doubts he could learn muchabout baking from the Labour MSP.

He goes on to say he hopes the nature of an agreement can be found on Clause 11 can be found to make sure this Continuity Bill is not necessary.

'The Conservative notion that there is no threat is a fantasy'

SNP MSP Christina McKelvie
SNP MSP Christina McKelvie

"In order to protect this parliament's power and this parliament's place in this nation, we need this bill today," SNP MSP Christina McKelvie says.

Leaving the EU will deprive us of the benefits of the charter of fundamental rights, she warns.

"The Conservative notion that there is no threat is a fantasy," the MSP adds.

SNP MSP hopes Continuity Bill will become a historical irrelevance

SNP MSP Bruce Crawford says he is "deeply dismayed" the Scottish government have had to introduce this Continuity Bill, but he says it is essential.

Mr Crawford says this debate today is about protecting the democracy Donald Dewar and others allowed to flower.

Mr Crawford

The SNP MSP, who is NOT speaking as convener of the Finance and Constituion Committtee, rather for his party, says he hopes this bill will become a historical irrelevance due to agreement being found.

Mr Crawford says he disagrees with Neil Findlay that this bill is a custard pie saying its much more an "Eton mess".

He gives that line to Ash Dehnahm as not so many laughed as he thought would!

Delegated Powers Committee response explained

Delegated Powers Committee convener Graham Simpson says his committee has considered whether:

  • conferring these powers on ministers is appropriate
  • the bill meets the policy intention
  • the powers will be subject to the appropriate level of scrutiny
Delegated Powers Committee convener Graham Simpson
Delegated Powers Committee convener Graham Simpson

The committee convener welcomes the restriction of ministers' powers in section 11 around the necessity test.

He also praises the Brexit minister for committing to amend the section of the bill referring to exit day for clarification.

Delegated Powers Committee convener's the committee's letter to the PO again

ANALYSIS: Latest on the row over EU powers returning to Westminster or Holyrood


The UK government is making a new attempt to win the support of peers in the House of Lords in the continuing row over what will happen to powers that return from Brussels after Brexit, and whether they should go to Westminster or Holyrood.

The Scottish and UK governments are currently embroiled in lengthy negotiations about where the repatriated powers will end up.

Scottish ministers have accused their UK counterparts of wanting to ''mount a power grab'' and ''disrespecting the devolution settlement'' by not automatically transferring powers to Holyrood.


The UK government says the vast majority of powers will go to the Scottish Parliament but some must be retained at Westminster to protect the UK internal market.

Now it has emerged that the Cabinet Office minister, David Lidington, whose leading the negotiations on behalf of the UK government, will brief peers tomorrow evening following the latest round of talks in London between the UK and Scottish governments.

Peers are due to discuss the so called clause eleven aspect of the EU Withdrawal bill--relating to devolution--within the next couple of weeks.