Nicola Sturgeon accused of opposing Scotland's top legal officer


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The SNP has submitted an application to intervene in a case which could allow the Scottish Parliament to legislate for indyref2. Lawyers Claire Mitchell QC and David Welsh argue in a 15-page submission it would be “fair, just and reasonable” to allow the SNP to intervene in the proceedings.

It comes after the Lord Advocate asked the Supreme Court in July to decide whether a prospective Bill which would legislate for another referendum would be within Holyrood’s powers, filing a written submission which leaned heavily on any vote being wholly advisory.

The court said it would hear oral arguments from both sides on October 11 and 12, but now the SNP has requested an opportunity to lay out its case for another vote.

Scottish Conservative Constitution spokesman Donald Cameron MSP said: “It smacks of desperation – and an entirely skewed sense of priorities – that the SNP, as a party, are now lobbying the Supreme Court, on top of their referral to the same court as the Scottish Government.

“We know the Lord Advocate – as Scotland’s top law officer – has grave doubts over the legal case for the Scottish Government holding another divisive independence referendum the majority of Scots simply don’t want.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon meets staff during a visit to the Forge Medical Centre in Parkhead

Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP has been accused of going against Scotland’s top legal officer (Image: Getty)

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon meets staff during a visit to the Forge Medical Centre in Parkhead

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on a visit to Parkhead (Image: Getty)

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“The SNP’s obsession with this issue is entirely the wrong priority for the country at the worst possible time. The majority of Scots want them to focus on tackling their priorities – Scotland’s drug-deaths epidemic, rising NHS waiting times and the global cost-of-living crisis.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “The Scottish Government has an army of in-house lawyers and their case will be led by the impeccably credentialed Lord Advocate. That makes it even stranger that they would be speaking to outside counsel.

“Perhaps Dorothy Bain’s obvious discomfort with this entire legal wheeze is pushing them towards external advisers. Either way, it is the Scottish public who are footing the bill at a time when they would much rather the [Scottish] Government’s efforts were focused elsewhere.”

Ms Bain asked the Supreme Court in July to decide whether a prospective Bill legislating for another referendum would be within the powers of Holyrood on request of Ms Sturgeon.

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Dorothy Bain QC lord advocate, during the appointment of law officers today at the Scottish Parliament

Dorothy Bain QC, Lord Advocate, during the appointment of law officers at the Scottish Parliament (Image: Getty)

Donald Cameron, Scottish Conservative Constitutional Affairs spokesperson

Donald Cameron, Scottish Conservative Constitutional Affairs spokesperson (Image: Getty)

An SNP source said: “Any suggestion to say we are contradicting the Lord Advocate is simply wrong.”

In the initial referral, the Scottish Government’s top law officer made clear she does not have the necessary degree of confidence a referendum Bill for a second poll would be within the competence of the Scottish Parliament.

At the same time, the Scottish Government confirmed the total cost on external counsel for Ms Bain’s referral was £27,193 to the Scottish taxpayer as of June 28.

The submission says court rules allow for “any official body or non-governmental organisation seeking to make submissions in the public interest” to apply to intervene.

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Where are the majority of ‘No’ votes? (Image: Express)

It adds: “In all the circumstances, it would be fair, just, and reasonable for the applicant to be granted permission to intervene in these proceedings in order to make submissions on the matters set out above.

“The submissions will be of assistance to the court and no party will suffer prejudice as a result of the applicant being able to take part in these proceedings.”

It also argues the right to self-determination is “fundamental and inalienable”.

The submission continues: “The applicant submits that, properly construed, the Scottish Parliament does have the legislative competence to legislate for a referendum on Scottish independence.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss leaves the hall after her speech during the second Conservative party membership hustings

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss leaves the hall after her speech during the second Tory party hustings (Image: Getty)

“The applicant wishes to make developed submissions on this matter if permitted to intervene in these proceedings.”

The submission adds that a single-question referendum on the matter of Scottish independence is the “clearest way” in which the will of the Scottish people can be ascertained.

It says: “The issue directly affects the Scottish people as a whole. It is also important to everyone in Scotland, in particular, those who voted for the applicant.”

The filing also repeats an argument made by Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain QC that an independence referendum would be to ascertain the views of the Scottish people and would not automatically see the result implemented.

The SNP’s deputy leader at Westminster Kirsten Oswald MP said the party’s application is now with the Supreme Court.

She added: “It is intended to support and complement the arguments for the Bill being within the Scottish Parliament’s competence that are set out in the Lord Advocate’s written case.

“The Bill raises a fundamental issue of democracy – in line with the principle of self-determination, Scotland’s future must be decided by those who live here, not dictated by Westminster politicians. It is now for the Supreme Court to determine whether our application to intervene should be granted.”

News of the submission comes after Foreign Secretary Liz Truss labelled Scotland’s First Minister an “attention-seeker” who should be ignored at a Tory leadership hustings in Exeter on Monday.

Brexit Opportunities Minister Jacob Rees-Mogg doubled down on the attack, telling Sky News today: “When she’s waffling on endlessly about having a referendum and going to the Supreme Court and all of this, we need to be saying, ‘Hold on – you’re doing this because you’re failing to deliver for the people of Scotland and the United Kingdom Government will have to deliver for the people of Scotland as well’.”

Deputy First Minister and Ms Sturgeon’s closest political ally, John Swinney, told the BBC Scottish voters would be “absolutely horrified” by Ms Truss’s “obnoxious” remarks.

He told BBC Scotland: “Unionist campaigners suggest Scotland should be at the heart of the United Kingdom. How Scotland can be expected to be at the heart of the United Kingdom when the democratically elected leader of our country is, in the view of the person most likely to be the next Prime Minister of the UK, somebody that should be ignored is completely and utterly unacceptable.”

However, Scots who want their country to remain part of the United Kingdom have come out in support of Ms Truss.

Scot Robert Lindsay said on Twitter: “She now gets my vote. Well done Liz Truss. Best thing ever to ignore the horrible Sturgeon.”

Fellow Twitter user Sandra Imlach, who describes herself on the social media platform as a proud Scot, chimed in: “The majority of SNP detesters, believe it or not, will NOT be horrified by Liz Truss’s remarks.

“They will be celebrating an MP who can stand up against Nicoliar the egotistical despot! Go Liz. You are so loved.”



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