Wednesday 11 September 2019 10:16 am

Scottish court rules parliament suspension unlawful

The Prime Minister’s suspension of parliament has been ruled unlawful by judges at Scotland’s highest civil court.

Appeal court judges, chaired by Lord Carloway, Scotland’s most senior judge, overturned an earlier ruling that the courts did not have the powers to interfere in Boris Johnson’s decision to prorogue parliament.

Read more: Boris, Brexit and the backstop: What happens next

Lawyers acting on behalf of 75 opposition MPs and peers argue that Johnson’s decision to suspend parliament for five weeks was illegal and in breach of the constitution, claiming it was designed to stifle scrutiny of the Brexit endgame.

“This was an egregious case of a clear failure to comply with generally accepted standards of behaviour of public authorities. It was to be inferred that the principal reasons for the prorogation were to prevent or impede parliament holding the executive to account and legislating with regard to Brexit, and to allow the executive to pursue a policy of no deal Brexit without further parliamentary interference,” the summary concluded.

“The Court will accordingly make an Order declaring that the Prime Minister’s advice to HM the Queen and the prorogation which followed thereon was unlawful and is thus null and of no effect,” the official summary added.

MPs were disbanded late on Monday night for five weeks – the longest period for decades – ahead of a new Queen’s Speech on 14 October.

The SNP’s MP for Edinburgh South West and Queen’s Counsel Joanna Cherry welcomed the news, and said parliament should be immediately recalled.

Cherry told reporters: “We feel utterly vindicated and I would be confident that the UK Supreme Court will uphold this decision.”

The case will now go to the Supreme Court, where the UK government is expected to appeal this latest decision on Tuesday.

One government insider pointed to the fact the court was Scottish, rather than English, suggesting Number 10 may try to find some room for manoeuvre in the distinction.

But while insisting the government was confident it would win in the Supreme Court, a spokesman stressed Downing Street had “absolute respect for the impartiality of our judges”.

Parliament will remain prorogued, the spokesman added.

Justice secretary Robert Buckland – who has been viewed as a possible contender for resignation – has praised the country’s judges for “their excellence and impartiality,” adding: “I have total confidence in their independence in every case.”

Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said Parliament should be recalled as early as this afternoon.

He told the BBC: “Most people didn’t believe Boris Johnson, but for the courts to find he has unlawfully shut down Parliament and that his motive wasn’t the one he said it was? That’s very powerful.

“I call on him to recall Parliament. Let’s get it back open, and sitting this afternoon and tomorrow, so we can debate what happens next and we can debate this judgement.”

The SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford said he had written to the Prime Minister, asking him to recall parliament “and end this unlawful prorogation”.

Some MPs made their way to the Commons chamber in protest.

But it was initially unclear what the ruling might actually achieve.

Unite general secretary Len McClusky told Sky News: “My advice to the Prime Minister is don’t go up to Scotland – you’re liable to face a citizen’s arrest.”

Shami Chakrabarti, Labour’s Shadow attorney general, said: “This ruling shows that, despite what Boris Johnson has spent his privileged life thinking, he is not above the law.

“Labour will not allow his elitist shutdown of parliament to enable him to dodge scrutiny and force through a disastrous No Deal Brexit.”

This is a breaking news story, which is being updated. Refresh for more details shortly.

Main image: Getty