Patrick Christys: The Supreme Court put Sturgeon firmly back in her tartan box
Senior judges including the court's Scottish president, unanimously found that two Bills passed by MSPs in March were incompatible with the 1998 Scotland Act
I’ve long thought that Nicola Sturgeon was somewhat of a poundland dictator, but now there appears to be some hard legal evidence for it. The Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the First Minister has overstepped her powers and, frankly, put her firmly back in her tartan box.
On the face of it, it might not seem that significant that Five senior judges including Lord Reed, the court's Scottish president, unanimously found that two Bills passed by MSPs in March were incompatible with the 1998 Scotland Act that underpins devolution.
They said four parts of a Bill about children's rights and two provisions in one about local government were outside the parliament's legislative competence because they imposed duties on UK ministers in reserved areas. It’s the kind of legal terminology that makes you want just give up and walk into the sea.
But actually this is massive because it could be curtains for Scottish independence. What it means, is that it sets a legal precedent that Sturgeon absolutely can’t call an independence referendum without Westminster’s consent. It would be illegal if she did. It’s an absolute hammer blow for Sturgeon’s lifelong dream.
A solid left hook. But wait, there’s more…the knockout blow was dealt by Scottish Secretary Alister Jack. He’s said he doesn’t want another independence referendum for 25 years. Why? Well that’s how long he thinks it’ll be before it can be classed as ‘another generation’, because, of course, the independence vote was supposed to be ‘once in a generation'.
There is also the added caveat that in order to call one, he believes support for independence would have to consistently poll above 60%. Which it absolutely isn’t doing and quite possibly never will. In fact, ironically, only 38% of Scots agreed that Sturgeon should hold a referendum without Westminster’s consent. So she’s considering doing something her own people don’t even want.
You’ve got to feel for Queen Nic. She’s 51 years old. She’s already been First Minister for 7 years. In 25 years’ time she’ll be 76 and there’s no way she’ll be in power then. What does that mean? Well, her lifelong ambition will never be realised, everything she’d hoped and dreamed for politically, her life’s work, he raison d’etre, dashed against the rocks.
A political life…totally unfulfilled. It won’t be her name in the history books if the Scots ever vote to leave, there’ll be statues to someone else, there’ll be another highland hero. You just hate to see it don’t you. There is of course another element to this.
The reason why we now have this legal precedent is because Sturgeon tried it on over enshrining the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into Scots law. The Tories thought this overstepped the mark and, as it turns out, it does.
So we told Sturgeon that, and politely suggested some minor amendments. Which they’re now going to have to make anyway. So what they’ve done is shamelessly use children, at the taxpayers’ expense, to try to make a political point. Which failed. Not exactly a resounding victory, but then again, she should probably get used to what defeat feels like.