PRIVATE talks have begun between London and Edinburgh to smooth the passage of Brexit legislation and ease the political tensions over the UK leaving the EU, the Herald can reveal.

The UK and Scottish governments are also planning to hold a series of bilateral summits to help resolve differences, with the first expected next month.

The linchpin legislation needed to deliver Brexit, the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, ran into instant controversy when it was published on Thursday, with both Nicola Sturgeon and Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones describing it as a “naked power-grab” by Whitehall.

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The UK government said it would be a “powers bonanza” for Holyrood and the Welsh Assembly, with many of the powers repatriated from the EU subsequently being devolved.

However Ms Sturgeon and Ms Jones said they could not recommend their respective parliaments approve the bill as it stands, raising the prospect of a constitutional crisis.

To avoid a deterioration in cross-border relations, Damian Green, the first secretary of state and effectively Theresa May’s deputy, has contacted the Scottish Government in the hope that an initial summit can take place in August in Edinburgh.

The political impasse in Northern Ireland has created a blockage to the regular process of intergovernmental talks between London, Belfast, Cardiff and Edinburgh known as the Joint Ministerial Committee (JMC).

The UK Government has therefore proposed bilateral discussions with Edinburgh instead.

Sources said there might also be one-to-one meetings between Mrs May and Ms Sturgeon.

One Whitehall insider explained: “What is important is that we have a proper structured dialogue with the Scottish Government.

“It’s very difficult in the context of Northern Ireland where we have the JMC arrangements. So we are looking to have enhanced bilateral arrangements.”

Mr Green is looking to head the summits alongside John Swinney, the Deputy First Minister. Others expected to be involved include Brexit Secretary David Davis, Scottish Secretary David Mundell and SNP Brexit minister Michael Russell.

The source added: “We are looking to establish a serious bilateral channel for discussions. “We had a serious process for the fiscal framework. We are clear we have got to have a bilateral process but one that allows for mature and adult discussion.”

They added the attempt at better relations with Edinburgh did not mean the UK government accepted SNP criticism that consultation on Brexit to date had been mere “lip-service”.

Initial feedback from the Scottish Government about summits had been positive.

“You have Damian Green performing the role of Deputy Prime Minister, so he can engage with John Swinney and there can be sensible dialogue,” added the source.

Another insider insisted that what was being offered to the Scottish Government was a “sensible, pragmatic and reasonable approach” to working through the Brexit process, adding: “There is absolutely no agenda for a power-grab.”

A number of Tory ministers are expected in Edinburgh next month to promote the UK Government's work in Scotland against the backdrop of the Festival’s 70th anniversary.

It came as the Law Society of Scotland said it was “essential” that the UK government took account of the devolved administrations to deliver a “whole governance” approach to the Bill.

Society president Graham Matthews said the legislation was a “milestone” moment.

He said: "As it goes through parliament and the UK Government moves forward in its negotiations on how we leave the EU, it will be essential for the Government to take a whole of governance approach, taking account of the devolved administrations and external organisations, including the professions, civic society and other representative groups to ensure that this important and complex Bill works effectively on Royal Assent."

The Society also flagged concerns about the potential use of so-called Henry VIII powers allowing the Government to change laws affecting Scotland with minimal scrutiny.

Mr Matthews said: "It's our view that each piece of secondary legislation should be consulted upon and, given the compressed timescales, this should start as soon as possible rather than waiting until next spring when the Bill will have gone through the parliamentary processes at Westminster.