Nicola Sturgeon has accused the Conservatives of silencing Scotland’s vote to remain in the EU on the eve of the most contentious constitutional court case for generations.
The First Minister claimed moderate Scottish Tories were guilty of falling behind right-wing demands for a hard Brexit, which will cost Scotland jobs.
Tomorrow will see the UK government go to the Supreme Court in a bid to regain control over the Article 50 process, the mechanism by which Britain will leave the EU.
Legal papers submitted by the UK government have dismissed the Scottish Government’s arguments that the consent of MSPs is required for Article 50 to proceed.
In a speech to the SNP’s National Council in Perth, Sturgeon said Scottish Conservatives were guilty of ignoring the wishes of the 62 per cent of Scots who voted to Remain in the June referendum.
“The Scottish Tories are not just putting party before country – they’re putting the right-wing of the Tory party before country,” the SNP leader said.
“They are embarrassed that there was an overwhelming majority for Remain in Scotland. They seek to scare people into believing that they have no option but to accept any amount of economic pain from a Tory Brexit – regardless of how they voted.
“The Tories want to silence Scotland. But we, the SNP, will make Scotland’s voice heard.”
This week the UK government will go to the Supreme Court as it attempts to overturn the High Court decision, which ruled that MPs must be given a vote on Article 50.
Theresa May’s government believes that Brexit should be implemented using existing ministerial powers alone – a process known as the royal prerogative which would bypass parliament.
The Scottish Government, through the Lord Advocate, has entered the battle and is arguing that triggering Brexit must also have the consent of the Scottish Parliament.
Legal documents, published last week, attempt to dismiss the Scottish Government’s case arguing that the convention whereby devolved parliaments get a say on Westminster legislation is not legally enforceable.
Attorney General Jeremy Wright has also warned that the UK-wide 52 per cent vote in favour of Brexit must be observed.
In his submission, Wright, May’s chief legal adviser, said the High Court judges who made November’s ruling were “wrong to relegate, almost to a footnote, the outcome of the referendum”.
The submission was signed by Wright and other lawyers, including Advocate General for Scotland Richard Keen QC.
They will seek to convince 11 Supreme Court justices to reverse the earlier High Court ruling. Investment fund manager and philanthropist Gina Miller, 41, brought the case, which argued the UK Parliament must be consulted before Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty is enacted.
The SNP leader’s speech came at the end of a difficult week for her, which saw the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, rule out her plans for a separate Scottish Brexit deal during a visit to Edinburgh.
Hammond’s intervention came as a crushing blow to Sturgeon, who has been examining the possibility of a separate EU arrangement for Scotland within the UK as one of her options to protect Scotland’s relationship with the single market.
The Chancellor’s remarks have increased speculation that Sturgeon will be tempted to go for her other key option – holding a second independence referendum fought on the basis that somehow an independent Scotland could retain its relationship with the EU.
The First Minister is expected to publish the Scottish Government’s official response to the Brexit vote shortly.
Yesterday Sturgeon said a hard Brexit would hit the economy and attacked Ruth Davidson, claiming the Scottish Conservative leader had backtracked from her commitment to the single market.
“When it comes to Europe the Scottish Tories are showing their true colours,” Sturgeon said.
“Week after week in the Scottish Parliament the Tories vote against continuing membership of the European Single Market. They’ve turned their backs on the moderates in their own party.
“They’re now enthusiastic members of the Conservative faction which has hijacked the EU referendum result and is demanding a hard Brexit.
“In a televised debate during the referendum campaign, Ruth Davidson denounced the Brexiteers as selling a ‘lie’. But she is now guilty of a sell-out on the commitment to single market membership she advocated both before and after the EU referendum.”
She added: “A hard Tory Brexit will cut trade, cost jobs and lower living standards. The Tories want to roll back the gains of devolution that have helped so many families. They want the sick to pay for their prescriptions and students to pay for their education. At a time of rising prices they want to hit family budgets even harder.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives said: “The SNP doesn’t have form for respecting the outcome of referendums, and it’s proving as much again today. Ruth Davidson is the only party leader in Scotland who has accepted the result, and now wants to make it work for Scotland. Everyone else, especially Nicola Sturgeon, is in denial.”