Whether or not the three Court of Session judges who ruled that Boris Johnson’s suspension of Parliament was illegal are correct in their interpretation of the law is a matter which will now occupy the minds of the UK’s Supreme Court.
However, it is beyond doubt their opinion that the prorogation “had the purpose of stymying Parliament” and MPs’ attempts to prevent a no-deal Brexit is the truth. Anyone who doubts this is delusional, so blinded by political allegiance that they have become divorced from reality.
In response, the official Downing Street spokesperson said suspending parliament was “necessary” to enable the Government to “bring forward a strong domestic legislative agenda”. Nonsense. It was not “necessary” to hold a Queen’s Speech two weeks before Brexit. And it was also not “necessary” to prevent MPs from scrutinising the Government for five weeks – the longest suspension since 1930.
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A statement issued by the court said: “The Lord President, Lord Carloway, decided that although advice to HM the Queen on the exercise of the royal prerogative of prorogating Parliament was not reviewable on the normal grounds of judicial review, it would nevertheless be unlawful if its purpose was to stymie parliamentary scrutiny of the executive, which was a central pillar of the good governance principle enshrined in the constitution; this followed from the principles of democracy and the rule of law.”
Hopefully, these words will make clear to anyone who has not fully grasped the dangers posed by the Government’s current tactics that the issues at stake are of the utmost importance – democracy and the rule of law.
If the official Downing Street response was as close to a lie as makes little difference, the remarks of a senior Number 10 insider to the Sun newspaper, which suggested the Scottish judges were politically biased, showed just how far Johnson’s inner circle has fallen, how far removed they are from the principles of the liberal democracy this country has long been and always should be.
The slur prompted strong criticism from all sides with Scottish Conservative constitution spokesman, Adam Tomkins MSP, writing on social media: “To politicians who don’t like court judgments: don’t attack the judges or the independence of the legal system. Don’t ever do that. Appeal, test your legal arguments in a superior court. Why does this even need saying?”
The big problem is, it very much does need to be said – or, rather, shouted from the rooftops. Democrats of all parties, but particularly the Conservatives, need to wake up and put even greater pressure on Johnson. Simply resigning or withdrawing from the political battle, talking about anything else, is not good enough.
The Scotsman has warned the proroguing of Parliament is a step towards a dictatorship and urged the Government to turn back. The reaction to the Scottish judges’ ruling shows Johnson and co are still heading in the wrong direction, still sticking to the bare-faced lie that suspending Parliament for five weeks is business as usual and not about being able to force through a no-deal Brexit – against the wishes of Parliament and without a mandate from the 2016 referendum.
In November 2016, after the UK Supreme Court ruled only Parliament and not the Prime Minister had the power to begin the formal process of leaving the European Union, the Daily Mail published photographs of the judges with the headline “Enemies of the People”, a phrase beloved of dictators like Stalin.
So the Court of Session judges, Lord Carloway, Lord Brodie and Lord Drummond Young, would have known what to expect from some quarters. It is a brave decision and one that strikes a blow for truth, democracy and the rule of law. And that, in the Scotsman’s view, means they are more than worthy of the title “Heroes of the People”.