Scottish Government: Scotland Act undermined by supreme court verdict 


Ross Greer: ‘Confirm a timetable for #indyref2 bill’

THE LEGAL STRAMASH over the triggering of UK exit from the EU has “exposed the inadequacy” of the system of devolution, according to Scottish Government minister Mike Russell. 

Speaking to parliament today [Wednesday 25 January] following the supreme court ruling on Brexit, Russell said the verdict that there was no legally enforceable obligation to consult devolved administrations was a defeat for those who wanted a strong Scottish parliament within the UK. 

The verdict, which saw the Tory Government defeated on its plan to trigger article 50 without the support of the Westminster parliament, found that the 2016 Scotland Act had not placed the Sewel convention (requiring the consent of devolved parliaments for changes in devolved competencies) on a legal footing in this case – despite the ambitions of the Smith Commission on further powers and the 2016 act. 

Russell, who has led on Brexit discussions with the Tory Government, said: “We’re obviously disappointed about the supreme court’s ruling about the legal enforceability of the Sewel convention. But let’s be clear about what the judgement actually said. 

“Notifying the intention to leave the EU will have significant consequences for devolved matters, and the powers of the Scottish Parliament and Scottish ministers. And the court explicitly accepted that. 

“In so doing, it is obvious that the Sewel convention is triggered by a UK bill authorising the Article 50 notice. 

“What the court has ruled is that the operation of the convention is a political and not a legal matter, and therefore outside the court’s remit. This is of course a position urged on the court by the UK Government, which also resisted any and all efforts to give real teeth to the Scotland Act provisions on the Sewel convention.”

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Tory spokesperson Adam Tomkins MSP, who sat on the Smith Commission, had said that the verdict was a defeat for the Scottish Government – and called on them to support the Brexit process, despite the 62 per cent vote in Scotland for Remain. 

“The Tories may wish to reflect on gloating on this point,” Russell said. 

“Rather than being a defeat for the Scottish Government, yesterday’s ruling exposed the inadequacy of the Smith Commission process and for those who believed that writing Sewel into law would represent a new status for the Scottish Parliament.

“It is in fact a defeat for the Tory architects of the Scotland Act 2016, architects including the Tory constitutional spokesperson [Tomkins].”

Labour and the Liberal Democrats reiterated calls for the Scottish Government to focus on UK-wide proposals to the Brexit chaos and threats to the national economy from exiting the single market.

In response to a government statement, Ross Greer MSP, the party’s external affairs spokesperson, called for a timetable to be produced for a fresh independence vote.

Supreme Court rules Holyrood has no say over Brexit trigger

“The Greens share the Scottish Government’s disappointment at the outcome of the recent supreme court case,” Greer said. “We were promised during the independence referendum that Scotland would be an equal partner in this union and our views respected, yet it is clear now that the Scotland Act did not live up to those promises. The permanence of this Scottish Parliament is meaningless if we can be overridden at will.

“It is increasingly clear that the Scottish Government’s significant compromise proposals have been dismissed out of hand by the Westminster government, who didn’t even wait for those from the Welsh administration.

“The minister has pointed out that Westminster is fast closing down the options for Scotland. Now the Scottish Government must confirm the timetable on which an independence referendum bill will be introduced. It’s becoming increasingly clear that we must put Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands.”

Consultation on a fresh independence bill closed in January. 

Picture courtesy of Parliament TV.

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