Scotland’s most senior law officer is to apply to the Supreme Court to fight the UK government in its attempt to overturn a legal ruling that has thrown Theresa May’s Brexit strategy into chaos.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the Lord Advocate would take the action as she confirmed the Scottish Government’s intention to take on its UK counterpart in the courts.
She made the announcement as the UK government was given the go-ahead to appeal last week’s High Court judgment, which insisted that the Prime Minister must have the approval of MPs to trigger Article 50 – the process of taking Britain out of the European Union.
The UK government will attempt to reverse the judgment when its appeal starts to be heard at the Supreme Court on 5 December.
Before last week’s ruling, Mrs May had believed ministerial power and the June referendum result was sufficient to implement Article 50.
At a press conference in Bute House yesterday, Ms Sturgeon outlined her objections to the approach being taken by the UK government and added that the consent of the Scottish Parliament should also be sought.
She said it “simply cannot be right” that rights linked to membership of the European Union “can be removed by the UK government on the say-so of a Prime Minister without parliamentary debate, scrutiny or consent”.
The First Minister added: “So legislation should be required at Westminster and the consent of the Scottish Parliament should be sought before Article 50 is triggered.”
Ms Sturgeon pointed out that 62 per cent of Scots had voted Remain in June, as she outlined her course of action.
The pro-EU vote recorded north of the Border has led to Ms Sturgeon arguing a second independence referendum should be an option as part of her strategy of defending Scotland’s relationship with Europe.
She said: “Let me be clear – I recognise and respect the right of England and Wales to leave the European Union. This is not an attempt to veto that process.
“But the democratic wishes of the people of Scotland and the national Parliament of Scotland cannot be brushed aside as if they do not matter. The Prime Minister said that on 23 June people across the UK had voted with, in her words, ‘emphatic clarity’ when they voted by a margin of four points to leave the EU.
“The margin for Remain in Scotland was 24 points – a far more emphatic and clear result.
“So the Prime Minister needs to live up to her promise to treat Scotland as an equal partner in the United Kingdom and listen to the will of the people of Scotland.”
Ms Sturgeon said she would not go into the detail of what the Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC will argue, but made it clear she personally believes the UK government should seek approval for triggering Article 50 through a legislative consent motion at Holyrood.
She said: “I believe that as a matter of politics and as a matter of fairness and respect to the devolution settlement, before we even get into matters of law which are not for me to determine, then it is inconceivable that the UK government would try to ignore or not seek the approval of the Scottish Government.”
Asked whether the Prime Minister thinks she needs Scotland’s consent to trigger Article 50, a Number 10 spokesman said: “We will wait and see what happens in terms of a Scottish Government application to intervene or not and what the decision of the Supreme Court is in the event that there is an application.”