Supreme Court finds in favour of UK Parliament sovereign ability to disregard Scottish Parliment
THE SUPREME Court has ruled that neither the UK Government nor Parliament has to consult any devolved administrations today (24 January), in a ruling on which institution has the sovereign right to trigger article 50 and begin the official process of leaving the EU.
It came as 8 of 3 judges confirmed that the UK Government could not enact Article 50 without a Westminster parliamentary vote.
The judgement means Holyrood and the Scottish Government are not entitled to be either part of the process of negotiating the circumstances of Brexit or the triggering of Article 50.
In the words of the court, it found: “On the devolution issues, the court unanimously concludes that neither section 1 nor section 75 of the NIA is of assistance in this case, and that the Sewel Convention does not give rise to a legally enforceable obligation.”
“Relations with the EU and other foreign affairs matters are reserved to UK Government and parliament, not to the devolved institutions.” Lord Neuberger
Lord Neuberger, president of the lord justices, said: “The devolution Acts were passed by parliament on the assumption that the UK would be a member of the EU, but they do not require the UK to remain a member.
He made the determination despite his finding that withdrawal from the EU would impact the role of Holyrood.
“Relations with the EU and other foreign affairs matters are reserved to UK Government and parliament, not to the devolved institutions. Withdrawal from the EU will alter the competence of the devolved institutions, and remove the responsibilities to comply with EU law.”
Political parties in Holyrood responded to the judgement in various ways, with the Scottish Government and Scottish Green party expressing concern that the sovereignty of the Scottish legislature had been seriously undermined.
“The Prime Minister and her hard Brexit brigade must treat devolved administrations as equal partners – as indeed she promised to do.” Alex Salmond MP
The judgment also presents a legal dead end to anti-Brexit forces in Scotland who are unable to appeal at European Court level, as the judgement insists on the reserved nature of the UK’s relations with the EU.
In response, the SNP stated it would table an amendment at Westminster to guarantee the participation of Scottish negotiators as “equal partners” in the Brexit process. As the judgement stands Scottish Brexit minister Mike Russell is invited to negotiation talks at the pleasure of the UK Government, who are now not obligated to included Scottish ministers or interests.
The SNP’s international affairs spokesperson, Alex Salmond MP, commenting from the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, said: “The Prime Minister and her hard Brexit brigade must treat devolved administrations as equal partners – as indeed she promised to do.”
In a statement which, significantly, failed to mention Holyrood Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “As the Supreme Court has concluded that Parliament must be given a say over the decision to trigger Article 50, this presents a huge opportunity for [the Westminster] parliament to agree to a Brexit deal referendum.
“Liberal Democrats will vote against the triggering of Article 50 in Parliament unless there is a Brexit deal referendum that gives the British public a final say on the terms of Brexit.”
Following the UK’s vote to leave the EU in 2016, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that another independence referendum was highly likely, but that the Scottish Government would do all it could to protect Scotland’s existing relationship with the EU.
Picture courtesy of the Supreme Court
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