Prompted by the UK Tory Government, Britain’s Supreme Court has ruled that certain parts of two Bills which were both unanimously passed by the Scottish Parliament in March 2021 - including all Tory MSPs - are not within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament.
The Bills in question are the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill, which made Scotland the first country to enshrine the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child into Scots Law, and the European Charter of Local Self-Government (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill.
The ruling demonstrates that as long as Scotland is a part of the United Kingdom, the Scottish Parliament is effectively not permitted to pass legislation that MSPs of all parties consider necessary to protect the rights of children living in Scotland, nor to address other devolved areas, such as local government.
Deputy First Minister John Swinney MSP said:
“While we fully respect the court’s judgment, it lays bare the weakness of, and the limits in, the devolution settlement. The ruling means it is outwith the powers of the Scottish Parliament to pass legislation it considers necessary to fully ensure the rights of Scotland’s children are protected.
“The UNCRC Bill was created to deliver a revolution in children’s rights, ensuring that children and young people are involved in decisions that affect their lives. The Bill was backed unanimously by all MSPs and celebrated as a landmark by campaigners across the country.
“The European Charter of Local Self-Government Bill strengthens local government by incorporating the Charter into Scots law. Starting as a Member’s Bill, it, too, was passed unanimously by the Scottish Parliament and it was supported by local government and COSLA.
“Today’s judgment will require careful consideration. I will update Parliament later today, but one thing is already crystal clear: devolution does not give Scotland the powers it needs.”
Kenneth Gibson MSP added:
“This ruling demonstrates two things: firstly, that being part of the UK does not work for Scotland’s children. Only with an independent Scotland, which has the powers to develop and pass all necessary legislation, will we be able to do what all our elected representatives – even the Tories in these specific instances – know to be right.
“Secondly, it shows us how utterly cynical the UK Tory Government is. While their MSPs here in Scotland voted in favour of both Bills, never raising any competency questions, their bosses at Westminster humiliated and brushed them aside, along with the rest of the Scottish Parliament.
“For the Tory Government this is all about control, both over Scotland and their politically impotent and irrelevant MSPs. Scotland’s children will pay the price.”