The head of the Scottish government — known as the First Minister of Scotland — Nicola Sturgeon has said that Scotland’s parliament — which is often referred to as Holyrood because it is located in the Edinburgh neighbourhood of that name — may try to block the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union. What is the new twist in the divorce tale, and is it likely to happen?
What did Nicola Sturgeon say?
Asked by the BBC whether she might ask Scotland’s parliament to refuse “legislative consent” to the move to leave, Sturgeon said “of course”, adding, “If the Scottish parliament was judging this on the basis of what’s right for Scotland then the option of saying, look we’re not to vote for something that’s against Scotland’s interest, of course that’s got to be on the table.” Scotland voted 62% to 38% to Remain in the EU, and Sturgeon has been saying it is her duty to try to give effect to the people’s will.
But does Holyrood have the authority?
Yes, says Sturgeon, who is the leader of the Scottish nationalist Scottish National Party; Scotland is a nation, she insists. No, says Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservatives — the advice she has got “suggests this is not within the power of Holyrood”, the BBC quoted her as saying. In an analysis for The Times, conservative Member of the Scottish Parliament Adam Tomkins said, “Holyrood’s consent will not be needed for Westminster to legislate for the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. United Kingdom constitutional law provides that Westminster will not normally legislate with regard to devolved matters without the Scottish parliament’s consent, but the UK’s EU membership is a reserved matter — it is not something that has been devolved to the Scottish parliament.” Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell has argued that Scotland chose to remain in the UK at the referendum of 2014 and is required, therefore, to abide by decisions made collectively by the UK.
So what options does Sturgeon have?
She will explore “all options”, she has said. Something that is being repeatedly talked about is a second independence referendum — a so-called indyref2 — that would allow Scotland to become part of the EU by itself. But despite significant anger at the June 23 referendum results, there is no certainty that Scots will change their minds from 2014. The problems for Sturgeon’s SNP then were the economy, the currency of an independent Scotland, and EU membership. The first two factors haven’t changed much, even if the third has.
Could Scotland stay in the EU while being part of Britain?
Theoretically, Edinburgh can try to negotiate a special deal with EU bosses for itself. In a commentary, Brian Taylor of the BBC speculated whether Scotland could “gain a distinctive status as, in reverse, is the case with Greenland and the Faroes which are parts of the Kingdom of Denmark, yet not in membership of the EU”. But this is a peculiar and very different case — the ‘parent’ state has chosen to leave, and Scotland is part of the UK’s economy and its international obligations.— WITH AGENCIES