Scotland politics

Scottish voice 'must be heard' on Brexit

EU flag outside Supreme Court Image copyright Reuters
Image caption A man waiting to enter the public gallery waves an EU flag outside the Supreme Court ahead of the cast starting

Scotland's Brexit secretary has insisted it is "right and proper" that the Scottish government is heard during a landmark legal hearing on Brexit.

The Supreme Court is examining whether UK parliament consent is needed before negotiations with the EU can begin.

On Wednesday, Scotland's top law officer, the Lord Advocate, will argue that Holyrood should also be consulted.

Brexit secretary Michael Russell said leaving the EU would have a "profound impact" on Scotland.

And he argued that the distinct Scottish legal system and constitutional traditions meant it was important that the country has a say.

The case, which will start on Monday morning and is expected to last four days, is the result of the UK government appealing against last month's High Court ruling that only Parliament has the authority to trigger Article 50.

The Supreme Court subsequently granted a request by Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC, to intervene in the case on behalf of the Scottish government.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The Supreme Court judges are expected to deliver their verdict in January

He will draw on a range of constitutional laws - including the Act of Union from 1707 and the Scotland Act which set up the Scottish Parliament - as he attempts to convince the 11 judges that Holyrood should have a formal role in the process of triggering Brexit.

But the UK government believes that the EU referendum result means it can make the decision to trigger Article 50 without votes in any parliament, and says the devolved Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish administrations have no powers over foreign affairs.

The Welsh government and the Attorney General for Northern Ireland have also intervened in the case, with the Supreme Court judges expected to deliver their verdict in January.


Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionWhat will the Supreme Court be considering in the Article 50 case?

The BBC's legal correspondent Clive Coleman summarises the points at stake

  • The case is about whether the law means that the government needs the authority of Parliament to trigger the process for the UK to leave the EU
  • The government argues it can start the Article 50 process using "prerogative powers", a remnant of the era of all-powerful kings and queens
  • Justices will be ruling on who has the legal power to change the rights of British citizens

Read Clive's full analysis


Speaking ahead of the start of the case, Mr Russell told BBC Scotland that the the issues "should not be ventilated without a Scottish voice being heard".

He said: "Those who seek to exclude Scotland from this are the same people who claimed that Scotland was welcome as a part of the Union during the 2014 referendum, and said we had much to contribute from our distinctive stance - they should think again about what they are saying.

"This is exercising the rights that exist under law and making sure there is an understanding of difference within these islands.


How to follow the court hearing

  • Monday's hearing is scheduled to run from 11:00 GMT until 13:00 GMT and from 14:00 GMT until 16:30 GMT
  • Watch a live stream on the BBC website, along with rolling updates and analysis
  • Transcripts are being published twice a day by the Court by 1600 GMT and 1900 GMT

Mr Russell accepted that the Scottish Parliament did not have a veto over Brexit, but said there is a convention enshrined in the most recent Scotland Act in terms of legislative consent.

He added: "There is an element of politeness in this too. If you are passing legislation that will have a very profound effect upon Scotland, on the powers of the Scottish government, on the practice and operation of the Scottish Parliament, it is right and proper that those bodies should be consulted and should be taken into account.

"And I think even on that level of relations between one government and another there is a huge issue in here."

The High Court ruling was won by Gina Miller, 51, an investment fund manager and philanthropist who was selected to bring the lead case.

'Respect the result'

She reported that her high-profile role had led to death threats and she had spent £60,000 on security, but she is returning to the battle represented once more by Lord Pannick QC.

Her case is being supported by "concerned citizens" drawn from all walks of life, including London hairdresser Deir Dos Santos, 37, who helped start the legal battle over Brexit but, say his lawyers, has been forced underground after receiving "vile" hate mail.

The UK government will be represented by Attorney General Jeremy Wright, who said: "The country voted to leave the European Union in a referendum provided for by an Act of Parliament.

"The government is determined to respect the result of the referendum. The government's case is that it does have legal power to trigger Article 50 on the timetable set out by the prime minister.

"We do not believe another Act of Parliament is necessary."