MSPs back economic crime Bill

MSPs back economic crime Bill
The Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Bill cleared the House of Commons earlier this week.

MSPs have backed a Bill designed to tackle “dirty money” hidden in the UK.

The Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Bill cleared the House of Commons without opposition on Monday and was waved through by Holyrood on Wednesday.

The Bill will strengthen the UK Government’s ability to tackle Russian interests in Britain and will establish a new register of overseas entities requiring foreign owners of property in the UK to declare their true identity.

The Justice Secretary led the debate (Fraser Bremner/Scottish Daily Mail/PA)
The Justice Secretary led the debate (Fraser Bremner/Scottish Daily Mail/PA)

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine saw the Bill jump to the top of the government’s priority list after months of delays.

MSPs considered a legislative consent motion on Wednesday, given the Bill would have some powers in Scotland.

Justice Secretary Keith Brown – who reiterated the Scottish Government’s support for the people of Ukraine as the invasion reaches the two week mark – said: “The government fully supports the application of sanctions against Russia because of their aggression against Ukraine and we’ll continue to do all we can to support the UK Government in this regard.”

Closing the debate, Mr Brown added: “This land is our land, it is not the land of kleptocrats.”

Labour MSP Michael Marra tabled an amendment to the motion, urging the UK Government to remove a provision that would only require ownership of land in Scotland to be registered from 2014 onwards.

Mr Marra’s amendment also passed unanimously.

Mr Marra said it was important that Scotland “not be allowed to be a smuggler’s cove for capital on the seas of dark money that course around the globe”.

“They may own it, but Scotland belongs to us,” he said.

“We must honour it, rather than allow it to be defiled by corrupt gains and blood monies.”

Scottish Tory MSP Donald Cameron also proclaimed his party’s support for the motion and the Labour amendment, stressing the need for “urgency” in the passage of the Bill.

“The Scottish Conservatives support the Scottish Government’s motion,” he said.

“We believe there is a clear urgency to put the measures contained within the Economic Crime Bill into effect and that parliament should give consent to this Bill.

“It is right and proper that as a parliament we play a role in making our institutions more robust and to ensure that where there is illicit financial activity, we have the strongest measures in place to combat them.”

Lib Dem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “A terrible human tragedy is unfolding before our eyes.”

He added: “We must continue to stand with the people of Ukraine and do everything we can to sanction Putin for the destruction that he is causing.”