Fresh warnings court action may be used by the Scottish Government to block Internal Market Bill

Constitution secretary Mike Russell told MSPs that several legal options are on the table.

Wednesday, 9th September 2020, 12:30 pm
Michael Russell and Boris Johnson, who are at opposite sides of the debate on the Internal Market Bill

The Scottish Government could take the UK Government to court over its forthcoming Internal Market Bill, the constitution minister told MSPs amid fierce clashes between MSPs on the topic of Brexit.

Michael Russell, the constitution minister, repeated the Scottish Government’s claim that the new legislation from the UK Government would threaten devolution.

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The bill has been criticised by the Welsh Government as well as the Scottish Government, with the Welsh Brexit minister Jeremy Miles labelling it “an attack on democracy”.

During the committee, Scottish Green co-leader Patrick Harvie asked: “Is there not a case, is it not overdue in fact that the Scottish Government takes that question to court and asks whether the UK Government’s interpretation of its power to legislate ‘not normally’ in devolved areas, actually whenever it seems fit, not normally apparently for the UK Government just means not unless we feel like it.

"Is it not time for the Scottish Government to take that to court and seek a judicial review on what that means?”

Mr Russell said he agreed the dispute was “about power” and the “misuse of power” by the UK Government.

He added: “I have not ruled out any actions. I am not necessarily going to advertise those actions before they are taken.

"I have not ruled out any actions at all and I hear clearly what you are saying. There may be a range of legal options in front of us.”

UK Business Secretary Alok Sharma said the legislation would protect the UK’s “highly integrated market” by “guaranteeing that companies can continue to trade unhindered in every part of the UK after the transition period ends and EU law falls away”.

He added: “Without these necessary reforms, the way we trade goods and services between the home nations could be seriously impacted, harming the way we do business within our own borders.

During the committee, both Mr Russell and Scottish Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser were scolded by committee chairman Bruce Crawford during the exchanges after the Tory MSP took umbrage with the phrase “fanatical Brexiteers” used by Mr Russell to described those seeking to add additional parliamentary scrutiny to the EU Continuity Bill.

After a brief exchange of views, Mr Crawford told the MSPs to “keep one at a time” and said “you had both been at it” as he dished out the discipline.

Mr Fraser said: “The point I was making that the concerns over this legislation goes far beyond people who can be dismissed as fanatical Brexiteers.”

Taking advantage, Alex Rowley said: “I think the Tories are in complete denial of the devastating impact that Brexit is going to have and we are unlikely to have a reasonable debate with any Tories.”

Mr Russell, speaking about the challenges of a No Deal Brexit said: “There is no pot of gold at the end of this rainbow.

"The implication is that once we’ve got shot of the EU there will be some fantastic set of arrangements we will have with America, or whoever knows, Alpha Centauri, it is simply not going to happen.”

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