Sturgeon humiliated as Supreme Court dismissed Scotland’s ‘competence’ before legal claims

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Sturgeon humiliated as Supreme Court dismissed Scotland’s ‘competence’ before legal claims

Nicola Sturgeon: Election is an 'inconvenience' says CarlawScotland’s First Minister has raised the stakes ahead of the Holyrood election this week

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Nicola Sturgeon: Election is an ‘inconvenience’ says Carlaw

Scotland’s First Minister has raised the stakes ahead of the Holyrood election this week. Ms Sturgeon has promised that if the SNP — the Scottish National Party — win a majority, she will take that as a mandate from Scotland’s electorate to hold another referendum on breaking away from the rest of the UK. Westminster has so far refused to grant Ms Sturgeon the legal powers to hold Indyref2, as Scotland already voted to stay in the Union back in 2014.

However, Ms Sturgeon is adamant that the Prime Minister will not be able to stop a referendum taking place.

She said: “If Boris Johnson wants to stop it, he would have to take legal action.

“If Boris Johnson didn’t do that, by definition it would be a legal referendum. If he did do that, the courts would decide.”

Yet, just a few years ago, the SNP were slapped down by the courts when they tried to challenge Westminster’s rule.

Nicola Sturgeon has promised to launch Indyref2 if the SNP secure a majority

Nicola Sturgeon has promised to launch Indyref2 if the SNP secure a majority (Image: GMB)

Sturgeon, Scotland's First Minister and leader of the SNP

Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister and leader of the SNP (Image: Getty)

Holyrood attempted to take control of Scottish fisheries and drafted its own alternative to Westminster’s Withdrawal Bill before the UK had officially left the EU.

MSPs passed their own Brexit bills in March 2018, after refusing to give consent to the Commons’ plan on how to divide up the powers the UK would be gaining back from Brussels after Brexit.

The UK courts then rejected the bill, so it was escalated up to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court decided that farming and fishing were “outside of legislative competence” of the Scottish Parliament in December 2018.

The judges noted that while the proposed bill was “as a whole” within Holyrood’s capabilities, the MSPs did not have the power to manage the farming and fishing areas.

The judges added that changes made later to the legislation prevented MSPs from altering various elements of the bill — so a further 21 provisions were not passed because the farming and fishing proposals were rejected.

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How Scotland voted in the 2014 independence referendum according to area

How Scotland voted in the 2014 independence referendum according to area (Image: Express.co.uk)

Then-Scottish Secretary David Mundell noted that the court had “provided much-needed legal clarity” as the bill “goes beyond the powers of the Scottish Parliament”.

But, the Scottish Brexit Secretary Mike Russell said Westminster had “changed the rules of the game midway through the match”, and dubbed the decision “an act of constitutional vandalism”.

Director of public policy at Scottish legal giant Pinsent Masons Andrew Henderson also told City AM: “The court has found that the Scottish Parliament did act outside of its legislative competence on one count — pursuing measures which might result in modification of the Scotland Act, a power that devolved institutions of Scotland do not enjoy.”

The Scotland Act lays out the powers which have been devolved from Westminster to Holyrood.

Those powers do not include provisions over fisheries, farming or holding public votes on its constitution.

These issues still remain hand-in-hand, as the majority of Scottish voters wanted to remain in the EU back in 2016 — and the SNP has used this as a building block for its renewed independence bid.

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PM Boris Johnson has refused to give the go-ahead to Indyref2 so far

PM Boris Johnson has refused to give the go-ahead to Indyref2 so far (Image: Getty)

How much breaking away from the UK could cost Scotland

How much breaking away from the UK could cost Scotland (Image: Express)

As Mr Johnson has repeatedly pointed out, the last independence referendum in 2014 was announced as a “once-in-a-generation” opportunity by then-SNP leader Alex Salmond.

At the time, Westminster signed the Edinburgh Agreement with Holyrood which granted the Scottish Parliament the right to hold a referendum.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross has also maintained that to hold another such referendum without the approval of Westminster would be “illegal”.

Alister Jack, the Scotland Secretary, admitted in March that the UK would be willing to take Holyrood to court over Indyref2.

A Tory source told Sky News: “The Scotland Act requires consent for a referendum.

“Just because it’s not challenged by the UK Government doesn’t make it legal.

“The argument she is deploying is a significant development.”

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Still, Ms Sturgeon has claimed: “I believe that if the people of Scotland vote for this, if the support for independence continues, then it is not sustainable for any Westminster Prime Minister to stand in the way.”

Polls indicate that the SNP is going to secure yet another Parliamentary majority.

The First Minister has indicated that her party will pass a referendum when the crisis of the pandemic has subsided, before demanding the Prime Minister to agree to a Section 30 order which grants her the powers to hold a binding public vote.

A senior SNP source also told Sky News that they believed the UK would agree to a referendum because “there’s no clearer way to drive people away from the Union than by forcing them to remain in it via the courts”.

Another Tory source explained that the UK Government may well win in the courts, but the consequences of rejecting Indyref2 could be seriously detrimental to Downing Street.

They said: “You can see it now, how Ms Sturgeon would frame it, the courts in Westminster are overruling the will of the Scottish people.”



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