This afternoon I received confirmation from legal counsel that the #PeoplesAS30 summons has come back from court and is ready to serve on the Advocate General of the UK. The question was asked as to whether we should hold off on doing so, based on the current turmoil.
I am fully aware that the First Minister has halted campaigning for the foreseeable future due to #Covid19. However, this case stands separate from any party or any parliament. It is the will of members of the ordinary electorate.
Where physical campaigning may cause issues with this pandemic and therefore a pause is warranted, more administrative processes such as judicial review should have no effect.
After carefully considering all of the different issues and opinions on the subject I have come to the following conclusions:
1.While the campaign itself may have temporarily halted, the constitutional wheels keep on turning. Unfortunately, the incumbent Government at Westminster has been proven to be less than forthcoming in its dealings with Scotland and our parliament.
Just because MSPs take the high road, does not necessarily mean that the old adage of a disaster being a “good time to bury bad news” doesn’t still apply and we have seen Westminster act in an unscrupuiolous manner on a number of occasions. Acting in good faith is not something I would associate with the incumbent UK Government. They have, in fact, demonstrated acts of bad faith on multiple occasions. Not least the dismissive and contemptible attitude displayed towards the Scottish Parliament. Point and Case….Section 30 and the Continuity Bill.
2.There is a good chance that in the background, the UK Government will seek to undermine the Scottish Parliament in the coming months and if the Union Parliament is suspended, this would mean the UK Government cabinet effectively operating in isolation and with impunity, no MP’s being present to challenge certain actions they may take.
3.The current situation with respect to the huge powers that the UK Government will have under Henry VIII powers as legislated for in the European Union (Withdrawal) Act, allowing them to modify up to 1000 laws without parliamentary scrutiny is also of great concern.
A Government operating with no parliament and with such powers has the potential to be a seriously destructive force.
4.With this in mind, the question falls to quite a simple premise. Does holding off on action make any difference? Afterall, it is likely its calling before the court will be delayed anyway due to the current Covid issues. Also, it is likely a later filing would also be delayed due to backlogs in the system.
5.The action in court is separate from any action which the Scottish Parliament may take with respect to legislating on a second referendum, but this action gives complete clarity to parliament for whatever it may decide. Whether that decision is in a month of 6 months, the question still needs to be asked and answered. Ultimately, the timing of that answer will be a matter for the court anyway and if delay is required due to Covid19, the court will simply state it to be the case. However, filing now would mean we’d be first in line at the conclusion of current containment measures.
6.With the major constitutional and economic issues at play now, the balance must tip towards ensuring this question of law is answered in as timely a manner as possible, else the clarification would likely have to come after the Scottish Parliament tried to legislate (if it ever did), it is and always has been more conducive to clarify this issue prior to moving forward.
7.I am also acutely cognisant of the fact that when everything is up in the air, there needs to be some semblance of normality, of daily life proceeding, despite what may be going on. But with so much at stake constitutionally speaking and the current situation being finite and not likely to persist over the longer term vs the damage that could be done to Scotland in the short term, it is better to fall on the side of caution. If anything a bit of clarity would be a positive thing in the current climate.
On the basis of the above and more, we have therefore decided to proceed.
Therefore, as of this afternoon, Legal Counsel were formally instructed to proceed with summonsing the Advocate General of the United Kingdom and to proceed with Judicial review on whether it is constitutional for the Scottish Parliament to legislate for a second referendum independently of the Union Parliament and without modifying the Scotland Act.
I am fully aware that there may be dissenting opinions and detractors with respect to the decision to proceed and I want you to know that I have listened and taken on board opposing feedback. However, weighing the pro’s and cons tips the scales between proactivity and reactivity.
We are therefore being proactive, not reactive.
Covid 19 doesn’t seem to be slowing the UK Governments brexit agenda, therefore it is incumbent on us to ensure that it does not negatively impact the move towards asking the constitutional question.
Convener Forward as One