Lord Advocate to intervene in Brexit legal cases

The Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC has asked for permission to intervene in two legal cases challenging Boris Johnson's planned suspension of Parliament.
The Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC has asked for permission to intervene in two legal cases challenging Boris Johnson's planned suspension of Parliament.
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Scotland's most senior law officer, the Lord Advocate, has applied for permission to intervene in two legal cases aimed at preventing Boris Johnson's suspension of Parliament.

James Wolffe QC, the principal legal adviser to the Scottish Government, wants to make representations to hearings at the Court of Session in Edinburgh and the High Court in London.

If the applications are approved, the Lord Advocate will contend that the UK Government’s prorogation of the Westminster Parliament prevents scrutiny and represents an abuse of executive power.

Scotland's highest court will tomorrow begin hearing a petition brought by a cross-party group of 75 MPs and peers, to prevent Boris Johnson from proroguing Parliament, claiming it is "unconstitutional" for the Prime Minister to deny Parliament sufficient time to consider Brexit.

Two days later a similar hearing will begin at the High Court, brough by anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller.

Today the Scottish Government's constitutional affairs secretary Michael Russell said: “Accountable government is a fundamental principle of our democracy. This attempt to suspend the UK Parliament at such a critical time is a clear attempt to silence opposition and must be resisted.

“The democratic wishes of the Scottish people and the Scottish Parliament should not be allowed to be brushed aside as if they did not matter.”

Tomorrow's hearing at the Court of Session will begin at 10am, heard by Lord Doherty, the same judge who last week threw out a petition to win an interim interdict to stop the proroguing of Parliament, after Mr Johnson received the Queen's approval to do so.

Lord Doherty said a full hearing should take place, and as a result, the original hearing which had been scheduled for September 6 was brought forward to tomorrow.

READ MORE: Opinion of Lord Doherty

The court case kicks off a critical week for Parliament, as the House of Commons is due to return from summer recess tomorrow, and there is expected to be an attempt by opposition MPs and Tory rebels to take control of the parliamentary business to bring forward legislation to block a no-deal Brexit.

The Prime Minister received the Queen's permission to suspend Parliament for five weeks last week, claiming the prorogation was needed in order for his new government to bring forward a Queen's speech.

However the move triggered a constitutional crisis, and prompted the cross-party group to seek the interim interdict.

Sine then, both Mr Johnson and Cabinet minister Michael Gove, have refused to say if they would abide by legislation which would stop the UK leaving the EU without a deal.

Tory rebels have already been instructed they will lose the party whip if they vote for opposition legislation, and it is also rumoured that the Prime Minister is preparing to call a snap General Election.

Today, lead petitioner in the Court of Session case, Edinburgh South West SNP MP Joanna Cherry, said: "The dogs in the street know the real reason for the suspension of Parliament and it is now clear from statements made in public by Ben Wallace, the Secretary of State for Defence, Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Lord President of the Privy Council, and the Prime Minister himself, that the true intention behind the decision to prorogue Parliament is to prevent it from holding the government to account for its conduct of Brexit preparations.

"We think that purpose is unconstitutional and unlawful.

"I believe we have good prospects of success. Although we are in uncharted territory, it is significant that a number of separate legal teams have reached the same view as us and that litigation is also proceeding in Northern Ireland and in London."

READ MORE: Experts: UK in ‘unprecedented territory’ if Court of Session rules parliament suspension is illegal

Another of the petitioners, Ian Murray, Labour MP for Edinburgh South, said: “This court action has been taken because we believe it is unconstitutional for any Minister to deny sufficient time for proper Parliamentary scrutiny of Brexit.

“We are seeking to prevent Boris Johnson proroguing Parliament and riding roughshod over British democracy.

“At the same time, in Parliament we will seek to prevent a catastrophic no-deal Brexit, and I urge Scottish Conservative MPs in particular to put the country before their party.”