Scotland’s first minister was dealt the humiliating blow when the United Kingdom’s highest court ruled that her government had overstepped its powers.
Experts described the judgment as ‘unprecedented’, amid a scathing attack by the judges – including the court’s Scottish president Lord Reed – on the ‘deliberate’ attempt to bypass UK Parliamentary sovereignty.
Five senior judges, including Reed, unanimously found that two Bills passed in March by MSPs were incompatible with the 1998 Scotland Act, which is the basis for Scottish devolution.
They identified four sections of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) Bill and two sections of the European Charter of Local Self Government Bill which were incompatible with Holyrood’s powers.
The two Bills are now expected to return to Holyrood to be changed by MSPs in a ‘reconsideration stage’ to meet the requirements of the court’s judgment.
However, Professor Adam Tomkins of Glasgow University and a former Tory MSP, told The Daily Telegraph that the ruling ‘may well prove to torpedo any argument that Holyrood can legislate’ for a second referendum without Westminster’s consent.
‘It is a ruling that harms any Nationalist conceit that there could ever be a path to a lawful independence referendum without Westminster’s explicit consent,’ he said.
Opponents claimed the ‘nationalist games’ had backfired and paved the way for another defeat in court if Boris Johnson refuses to agree to a divisive vote.