Brexit court ruling brings second referendum closer

NICOLA Sturgeon has warned that the Supreme Court's ruling on Brexit makes a second independence referendum even more likely.

Wednesday, 25th January 2017, 8:04 am
Updated Wednesday, 25th January 2017, 8:05 am
Lord Neuberger, President of the Supreme Court, announcing that the Government has lost its appeal and that the Prime Minister must seek MPs' approval to trigger the process of taking Britain out of the European Union. Picture; PA

The 11 justices of Britain’s highest court rejected the UK Government’s case that it could trigger Article 50 without a vote at Westminster, but they also ruled there was no legal obligation to consult Holyrood or the other devolved administrations on the matter.

The Scottish Government had argued the Sewel Convention, which says Westminster will not normally legislate on devolved issues without the approval of Holyrood, meant MSPs should have a say on leaving the EU.

After the judgement, Ms Sturgeon said: “It is becoming clearer by the day that Scotland’s voice is simply not being heard or listened to within the UK. The claims about Scotland being an equal partner are being exposed as nothing more than empty rhetoric and the very foundations of the devolution settlement that are supposed to protect our interests – such as the statutory embedding of the Sewel Convention – are being shown to be worthless.

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“This raises fundamental issues above and beyond that of EU membership. Is Scotland content for our future to be dictated by an increasingly right-wing Westminster Government with just one MP here – or is it better that we take our future into our own hands? It is becoming ever clearer that this is a choice that Scotland must make.”

Ms Sturgeon has already pledged to bring forward a motion on Article 50 for MSPs to vote on, but the Supreme Court ruling means it will be purely symbolic.

The SNP also said it would table 50 “serious and substantive” amendments at Westminster on the Brexit process.

Edinburgh South West MP and SNP justice spokeswoman Joanna Cherry said: “We do not have confidence at the moment that the Government is listening properly to the voice of Scotland and we will use legitimate democratic means through the British parliament to make sure they do so.”

But Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson said the SNP should get behind the UK Government to secure the right deal on Brexit. She said: “Whatever side people were on last year, Scotland wants to get on with the negotiations so we can start to leave the uncertainty of the last few years behind us.

“We have all had enough of the nationalists using every diversionary tactic they can to try to use Brexit to manufacture a case for separation.”

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said it was now clear that triggering Article 50 was a decision for the UK parliament.

She said her party would work with the Scottish Government to get the best deal for Scotland within the UK. But she added: “There will be no support from Scottish Labour for any SNP plan for a second independence referendum.”

Ian Swanson – Page 16