Scottish court finds suspension of UK parliament unlawful

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Friday, September 13, 2019

On Wednesday, the Court of Session in Scotland issued an opinion on the suspension — prorogation — of the Parliament of the United Kingdom which went into effect on Tuesday, finding it to be unlawful. The Court of Session is the highest civil court in Scotland. The only court with higher authority is the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.

Entrance to Law Courts at Parliament House, Edinburgh
Image: Kim Traynor.

The court had been petitioned by Joanna Cherry of the Scottish National Party and 78 co-petitioners for a ruling on the prorogation of the UK parliament by Queen Elizabeth II at the request of Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Cherry and all but one of the petitioners are members of UK parliament.

The three-judge court found Johnson's advice to the Queen "was motivated by the improper purpose of stymying Parliament and that it, and what has followed from it, is unlawful." Colin Sutherland, Lord Carloway, the Lord President of the court decided, according to the summary, "that although advice to HM [Her Majesty] the Queen on the exercise of the royal prerogative of prorogating Parliament was not reviewable on the normal grounds of judicial review, it would nevertheless be unlawful if its purpose was to stymie parliamentary scrutiny of the executive".

The court's summary concluded with the statement: "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."

First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon said via Twitter, "Today's Court of Session judgment is of huge constitutional significance — but the immediate political implications are clear. Court says prorogation was unlawful and null and void — so Parliament must be recalled immediately to allow the essential work of scrutiny to continue."

Cherry, who led the petition, said, "Now, for every moment Parliament remains prorogued, the British government are breaking the law."

According to the BBC, a spokeman for 10 Downing Street expressed disappointment and that the prime minister's office intends to appeal; "The UK government needs to bring forward a strong domestic legislative agenda. Proroguing Parliament is the legal and necessary way of delivering this."