‘There is no functioning UK Government right now’: Nicola Sturgeon addresses Supreme Court ruling at Holyrood

Calling for Boris Johnson’s resignation, the first minister told MPs that a General Election must be sought as soon as a No Deal Brexit has been prevented

  • Nicola Sturgeon condemns both Boris Johnson and his government after the Supreme Court rules the suspension of parliament was unlawful: “There is, in truth, no functioning UK Government right now”
  • SNP commit to joining with other opposition parties in a vote of no confidence to trigger a General Election as soon as a No Deal Brexit is halted, with Sturgeon emphasising that the Benn Act must be respected
  • Sturgeon urges respect for the judiciary’s independence, warning: “Any of us – all of us – depart from that at our peril.”

FIRST MINISTER Nicola Sturgeon offered swift condemnation of Boris Johnson’s government only hours after the UK Supreme Court ruled that his decision to suspend parliament had been unlawful, and has called for a General Election to take place as soon as the possibility of a No Deal Brexit has been prevented.

On Tuesday morning [24 September], the Supreme Court’s 11 justices ruled in an unanimous verdict to uphold the decision of the Scottish Court of Appeal on 11 September, with the Court’s president Lady Brenda Hale commenting that the decision to advise the Queen to prorogue UK Parliament “was unlawful because it had the effect of frustrating or preventing the ability of Parliament to carry out its constitutional functions without reasonable justification."

Addressing the Scottish Parliament, the first minister emphasised the “extraordinary” nature of the Supreme Court’s verdict and welcomed news that MPs will return to Westminster tomorrow, before calling for Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s resignation. She further urged that the UK Government respect the Benn Act – which would prevent a No Deal Brexit on 31 October – and encouraged opposition parties to come together at Westminster to deliver a vote of no confidence that would trigger a General Election.

Sturgeon said: "It is of course possible for a prime minister to continue in office if they are unpopular. It is even possible for a prime minister to survive in office if they are not competent.

"But no prime minister should believe they can act with impunity and remain in office when they have acted unlawfully in the manner and in the circumstances set out so clearly by the Supreme Court today."

“No prime minister should believe they can act with impunity and remain in office when they have acted unlawfully in the manner and in the circumstances set out so clearly by the Supreme Court today." First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

Sturgeon condemned not only Johnson but his entire government, saying: “There is, in truth, no functioning UK Government right now.”

Responding to the first minister’s statement, acting Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw emphasised that a last-minute deal being struck with the European Union before the 31 October deadline was still possible, and challenged the first minister over whether SNP MPs would support such a deal, should it be brought before Westminster.

Sturgeon responded that while any deal that came before MPs would be scrutinised, no such deal exists, and as Scotland did not vote for Brexit, her principle mission as first minister was to see the wishes of Scottish voters respected, saying: “The SNP will not vote for something that takes us out of the EU against our will.”

Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie MSP, while acknowledging the personal responsibility that Johnson must bear for his unlawful actions, argued that similar condemnation should fall upon his entire government, saying: “They chose to serve under him.”

The first minister responded: “As long as Scotland is in the constitutional position we are in right now, we are always going to be at the mercy of Westminster governments that we don’t vote for, taking our country down a path that we don’t want to go down. So ultimately, the solution for that is for us to become a normal independent nation, taking our place with the other independent nations of the European Union and the rest of the world.”

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Sturgeon’s repeated assertion that the actions of the UK Government and the ongoing constitutional crisis further justified the case for independence was dismissed by Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie MSP, who said: “I think the first minister knows we don’t need more chaos - we need less so of it. So, no independence.”

However, Rennie agreed with Sturgeon over the need for the prime minister’s resignation, and a General Election after Brexit has been halted.

Sturgeon added that she would support “anything” that would prevent Brexit, saying: “I will support revocation of Article 50; I’ll support a People’s Vote; I’ll support anything that allows Brexit to be stopped and the democratic wishes of the people of Scotland to be honoured.”

The first minister had further harsh words for the Scottish Tories who have supported the prime minister since parliament’s suspension: “All of the Scottish Conservative MPs, elected from constituencies that rejected Brexit in the referendum, that don’t want Brexit at all and certainly do not want a No Deal Brexit, have gone along with the tactics and the strategy of this prime minister since the moment he was elected, and I think that reflects extremely badly upon them.

READ MORE: 'Can we abolish the monarchy now please?': Prorogation leads to calls for elected head of state

“But at the end of the day, it’s not my judgement on them that will count, it is the judgement of the electorate, and when that judgement comes – I hope it will be sooner rather than later – I think it will be a pretty severe one that these Scottish Tory MPs are facing.”

Responding to Tory MSP Donald Cameron, who raised concerns about the politicisation of the judiciary via judicial appointments, Sturgeon said: “If there is anything broken about the UK’s unwritten constitution right now, and in my view there’s lots broken about it, it’s not the independence of the judiciary – it’s not the way our judges are appointed, it’s not the way our judges go about their business. I would argue that’s one of the aspects of the constitution that has worked effectively over recent weeks and months.

“And I would say, it’s really important for all of us to respect the judiciary. And actually, that means not calling them out, as some newspapers have done, as ‘enemies of the people’ when they make judgements that we don’t agree with… It also involves no lauding them as heroes when they make judgements that we do agree with.

“It’s important that we respect that principle of independence – that is fundamental to our democracy and the operation of it, and any of us – all of us – depart from that at our peril.”

Picture courtesy of Amanda Slater

COMMONSPACE FORUM 26 SEPTEMBER: Indyref At 5