Scottish courts could have 'unparalleled' powers to reject Westminster legislation

Holyrood Scotland Scottish government- Russell Cheyne/PAThe UK Supreme Court heard that two bills passed unanimously by Holyrood could grant the Scottish courts unprecedented powers to reject legislation from Westminster.According to lawyers representing the UK Government, the legislation could see Acts of Parliament being repealed or amended due to clashes with Scots law.They claimed that this would result in a subversion to devolution. However, Westminster is still sovereign and both Bills have obvious competence issues.These laws, which deal with local government and children's rights, were approved by MSPs in March. However, they were challenged by UK law officers who felt that they placed obligations on UK ministers.According to the UK Government, their concern is not over the content of the legislation but rather whether the Scottish government has legal authority to pass the Bills.Alister Jack, Scotland's Secretary, wrote before the legislation was passed to inform the SNP government of the possible problems and suggest amendments.John Swinney, Deputy First Minister, rejected the idea as menacing, and called it a power grab.After the Holyrood election campaign ended, Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister, declared that the move was both politically and morally disastrous.Bills in the spotlightOn Monday, five judges heard arguments from the UK Government on why the legislation was not within Holyrood's jurisdiction.On Tuesday, the second and last day of the hearing, the Welsh and Scottish governments will present their views. A decision will be made at a later date.Sir James Eadie, QC, representing the UK Attorney General, and the Advocate General of Scotland, stated in written arguments: The Bills in slightly different ways purport to grant the Scottish courts vast and unique powers to interpret and scrutinise primary legislation passed at Westminster by the sovereign UK Parliament.Continue the storyThese Bills are intended to include international treaties signed by the UK in Scots law. The first Bill is the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), Incorporation (Scotland).This law imposes a legal obligation on public authorities to adhere to certain standards regarding children's rights. It also gives the Scottish courts the ability to determine if legislation is compatible.The second is the European Charter of Local Self-Government - Incorporation (Scotland).Sir James stated that there are obvious and multiple competence problems. The relevant Bills make Acts of Parliament of the UK, past and present, subject to what is effectively a superior body law, the UNCRC or the European Charter.James Mure, QC, the Lord Advocate for Scotland, stated in written arguments that no provisions alter the law on the relationship of the powers of Westminster to Holyrood.