A LEGAL expert has accused the UK Government of “sheer hypocrisy” over its move to block Holyrood from enacting a landmark children’s rights bill.
Legislation to incorporate the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into Scots law is to be disputed in the Supreme Court by Boris Johnson’s administration, which claims the bill goes beyond the competency of the Scottish Parliament.
But constitutional law specialist, David Allen Green, has condemned the move, warning Downing Street is treating the Supreme Court as if it were an “imperial court”.
In a blog post, he pointed to examples of the UK Government treating the judiciary as “enemies of the people”. In particular, he noted the “Miller cases”, when the Supreme Court ruled Tory ministers could not impose Brexit without Parliament’s permission.
Referring to No 10’s new court challenge against Holyrood, Allen Green writes: “My political view is that a Scottish parliament can and should be co-equal with the Westminster parliament – as the legislatures in Canada and Australia are, even if nominally under the same head of state. As such, it is frustrating to see the emphatically supported view of the Scottish parliament potentially stymied in this way.
“But a political view is not always the same as a constitutionalist perspective. And under the current constitutional arrangements of the United Kingdom, this is a question that can be referred to the Supreme Court – and as such there is nothing unconstitutional about the London government doing so. (Whether those should be the constitutional arrangements is a different question.)”
He adds: “It is sheer hypocrisy – and there is not other word – for the London government, and its political and media supporters, to pick-and-choose when the supreme court gets to determine constitutional questions.
“Either the supreme court is a constitutional court or it is not a constitutional court. And it should not be regarded as only a constitutional court when the London government wants to face down Edinburgh, Cardiff, or Belfast.
“A constitutional court is not and should not be regarded as an imperial court.”
The Supreme Court case against the Scottish Parliament sparked outrage among Scottish politicians. Nicola Sturgeon branded it “morally repugnant” while John Swinney described it as “deeply menacing”.
Meanwhile, legal expert Professor Aileen McHarg said the Tory government is under “no obligation” to take the legislation to the highest court in the land, and added that “this seems much more about asserting the superior status of the UK Parliament”.
Pressed about the decision at Prime Minister’s Questions, Johnson dismissed SNP complaints as “complete nonsense”.
He added: “The Government of the United Kingdom ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child 13 years ago, we all support it. It is nothing to do with the rights of vulnerable children which we all protect. This is simply an attempt by the SNP to stir up constitutional chaos and create another fictitious bone of contention between themselves and the rest of the country.”