THE Scottish Government is monitoring legal challenges brought in the wake of the Brexit vote to see if these could potentially open up a means for Holyrood to block the UK’s European exit.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon revealed the move as she warned there is a “real risk” the UK will suffer a “lost decade or more” after leaving the European Union (EU).
She stated: “The damage that will then do to our economy and other areas of our society and life will be deep and severe.”
Ms Sturgeon voiced her concerns as she told a Holyrood committee that in her view there is a “pretty compelling” case for the UK Parliament to have a vote on the triggering of Article 50, which will formally start the withdrawal process.
If that happened, she said Holyrood could also have to give its backing for this, with MSPs potentially voting on a legislative consent motion (LCM)
With the leaders of all five parties in the Scottish Parliament having campaigned to remain in Europe, this opens up the prospect of Holyrood blocking the use of Article 50.
Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish Government is monitoring the legal cases that have been brought in a bid to determine if Theresa May and the UK Government can do this without the formal consent of Parliament.
It comes as talks are taking place between Holyrood and Westminster over the role the devolved administration should have in Brexit negotiations.
While Mike Russell, the recently-appointed minister for UK negotiations on Scotland’s place in Europe, is to meet Brexit Secretary David Davis in London on Thursday, Ms Sturgeon conceded the discussions were “not proceeding as quickly as I would like them to”.
The First Minister went on to tell MSPs on the European and External Relations Committee the Scottish Government “is keeping a very close eye” on court actions that have been brought in England and Northern Ireland.
The “heart of these actions” centres around whether the UK Government can trigger Article 50 itself or would require an act of parliament to do so.
The cases are “expected” to go to the UK Supreme Court, she said, and added: “I have no inside knowledge on this but we might well get to a stage where we have a court decision that says Parliament has to be involved in that way.
“I have to say the Scottish Government is keeping a very close eye on these court actions and will assess as they proceed at all stages whether there is an argument for us to become directly involved to make sure that the interests of the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament are protected.
“If that was to be the case that there was a decision - and I’m speculating now - that Parliament had to pass legislation, that brings the issue of an LCM into sharp focus.”