Nicola Sturgeon in fresh Brexit legal row as both sides claim 'power grab' victory

Posted On: 
13th December 2018

A fresh legal row has broken out between the UK and Scottish governments after both sides claimed victory following a Supreme Court ruling on post-Brexit powers.

Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon.
Credit: 
PA

In a unanimous judgment handed down today, the court ruled that laws passed by Holyrood did not run counter to the UK devolution settlement.

However, in a blow for the Scottish Government, the court said part of the bill was "outside the legislative competence" of the Scottish Parliament.

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The two sides had been at loggerheads over which EU powers should return to the devolved nations after Britain leaves the bloc, with the SNP accusing ministers of a “power grab”.

But the Government had challenged the so-called "continuity bill" passed by Holyrood in a bid to address the issue, with ministers arguing that move went well beyond Scotland’s remit.

The court today said: "It finds that the whole of the Scottish Bill would not be outside the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament.

"However, section 17 would be outside the legislative competence of the Parliament because it would modify the Scotland Act and, at least in part… would be outside the competence of the Scottish Parliament because they would modify provisions of the UK Withdrawal Act."

Scotland's first minister Nicola Sturgeon seized on the judgement, saying it represented an "important vindication" for Holyrood.

But Scottish Secretary David Mundell said it provided "much-needed legal clarity that the Continuity Bill goes beyond the powers of the Scottish Parliament".

He added: "This demonstrates clearly that it was the right thing for the UK Government to refer the Bill to the Court. It is now for the Scottish Government to consider how to proceed, and we hope Holyrood will take a pragmatic approach and work constructively with us as we leave the EU.”

Conservative MSP Adam Tomkins prompted an angry response from Ms Sturgeon when he argued that the ruling "eviscerates the SNP’s Continuity Bill" and left the Holyrood law "in tatters".

He added: "The SNP were warned they were acting illegally. But they ploughed on regardless. Embarrassing day for Nationalist ministers. Again."

But the Scottish First Minister shot back: "This is the polar opposite of what the Supreme Court says. For a politician - and lawyer - to twist it this way is embarrassing...

"And that’s diplomatic language - others may prefer to be blunter."

Court President Lady Hale added: "We wish to make it clear that it is no part of our function to determine or to influence the political questions which underlie this dispute. Our role is a purely legal one.”