John JG McGil quotes Lord Cooper’s opinion (not a ruling) in MacCormick v Lord Advocate that “the unlimited sovereignty of Parliament is a distinctively English principle which has no counterpart in Scottish constitutional law” (Letters, 9 July).
This phrase is regularly used by Nationalists to claim that in Scotland, unlike in England, “the people are sovereign, not parliament”.
With respect to Lord Cooper, he did not distinguish between the legal sovereignty of Parliament (any Parliament) to make law, and the democratic sovereignty of the people (any people) to elect that Parliament in the first place.
These are two distinct principles of sovereignty and they exist in all modern societies.
For example, in Scotland we express our democratic sovereignty through our elected representatives in parliaments which are legally sovereign within their particular contexts – Westminster, Holyrood and Strasbourg.
Unfortunately, Mr McGil appears to interpret Lord Cooper to the extreme and destabilising point where a belief in the democratic sovereignty of the Scottish people supposedly nullifies the legal sovereignty of two of these parliaments.
Thankfully, in the very same case, Lord Russell added some balance by pointing out in reference to Westminster: “During the last 250 years… there has grown up a system of representative government embracing adult suffrage, five-year parliaments and the like until today it seems possible to affirm that the will of the majority of the population – both in Scotland and in England – is represented by and vested in its Parliamentary representatives.”
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Thursday 23 May 2013
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