Scotland must have the right to stage a second independence referendum after the “greatest contempt” ever shown by Westminster to Holyrood in thwarting the recent Brexit Bill passed by MSPs, according to Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie.
The Glasgow MSP said this marked the “material change in circumstances” which the SNP has previously indicated would be required to trigger a second vote on leaving the UK following the 2014 referendum.
The Scottish Government’s effort to introduce its own Brexit Bill was sunk by a ruling of the UK Supreme Court last year after a dispute about whether it was outwith Holyrood’s devolved control. Judges found the legislation was competent when first introduced - but the UK Government made retrospective changes to the Scotland Act which limited Holyrood’s powers to block the Bill’s progress.
Mr Harvie warned the move will have lasting consequences as he addressed the Scottish Green Spring conference in Edinburgh today.
“We had the greatest sign of contempt ever shown by the UK political system since the Scottish Parliament’s creation,” he told delegates.
“Holyrood made those emergency preparations, and did them better than the UK building in more democratic scrutiny, and a stronger legal basis for human rights, environmental principles, and animal welfare.
“The UK Government didn’t like what we were doing, so they triggered a court case after we’d passed the bill, to prevent it getting Royal Assent, then they legislated to retrospectively limit the powers of Holyrood on devolved issues, making it impossible for the Bill to come into force.
The Scottish Government sought to pass its own Brexit Bill, to ensure a legal framework continued to exist after Brexit, because it viewed the UK’s own Withdrawal Act as a “power grab” on the Scottish Parliament over powers being repatriated from Brussels. And Harvie warned the dispute was about far more than a “procedural battle” between two governments.
“It is a clear sign that what we have now, 20 years after the people of Scotland finally achieved their own parliamentary democracy, is the clear knowledge that whatever laws we pass in devolved areas of authority, the UK is not only able but fully willing to retrospectively bind our hands and block the laws we make whenever they disagree.
“Did anyone say “material change of circumstances”? We don’t need to wait to find out how Brexit ends – that change of circumstances has happened already, and the people of Scotland must, and will, have the chance to take our futures into our own hands once again.”