With the political atmosphere at Westminster and Holyrood reaching boiling point, we close the week with the unedifying sight of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom denying that he lied to the Queen. The context was the advice he gave her over the five-week suspension of Parliament, and he was speaking on Thursday after Scotland’s highest court ruled on Wednesday that the shutdown was unlawful.
Asked whether he had lied to the monarch about his reasons for the suspension, he replied: “Absolutely not. The High Court in England plainly agrees with us, but the Supreme Court will have to decide.” The power to suspend – or prorogue – Parliament lies with the Queen, who conventionally acts on the advice of the Prime Minister. Labour has said it is “more important than ever” that Parliament is recalled after the government published its no-deal Brexit assessment late on Wednesday evening.
The next instalment will be a ‘definitive’ legal ruling by the UK Supreme Court on Tuesday. This court has ultimate authority over the two courts which have already issued contradictory rulings. Normally courts do not intervene in the decisions of the government, using the principle of a “margin of appreciation,” which gives ministers more leeway under the law than that of ordinary people or organisations. The fact that a third senior court is about to intervene is a highly significant constitutional step.
This week in Scotland, former Labour Prime Minster Gordon Brown launched Our Scottish Future which will seek to make a “progressive” case for the union. Explaining the purpose of the new think-tank, he said, “Our Scottish Future will be a coming-together of new ideas in what we hope will be a think tank dedicated to that progressive future. Our Scottish Future will, of course, expose what is wrong, such as the dangerous experiment of a Scottish pound. But it will do much more than that: it will show how Scotland can stand tall in the world without standing apart from our nearest neighbours and it will demonstrate why Scotland is at its best leading in the UK, not leaving it.”
Scottish Labour is, however, struggling to find candidates to fight a snap election with vacancies for more than half of the country’s seats, according to press reports yesterday. There are no prospective parliamentary candidates for 33 seats in Scotland and party leaders are pressing local activists to put their names forward. Vacant seats include East Renfrewshire, which was once held by Jim Murphy as Scottish Labour leader, as well as both Aberdeen constituencies and two in Dundee.
A Conservative MP has become the first Scottish incumbent to announce that he will stand down at the next general election. Bill Grant won the Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock seat in 2017 after overturning a large SNP majority. But he said he would not be seeking re-election whenever the next general election is called.
Ministers this week announced the Scottish schools which will be rebuilt or refurbished in the first phase of a £1bn investment programme. A total of 26 schools in 11 council areas will be replaced under the strategy.
And finally… Rumours are beginning to circulate that UK Tory leadership hopeful Rory Stewart is being lined up to replace former Scottish party leader Ruth Davidson at Holyrood. The Penrith and Borders MP – one of 21 Tory MPs to have the Conservative whip removed for voting against a no-deal Brexit – is being encouraged to stand for the Scottish Parliament by several MSPs.
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