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by Kirsteen Paterson
13 October 2022
Jim Murphy 'bamboozled' by 'legally ingenious' indyref2 case

Jim Murphy campaigning in 2014

Jim Murphy 'bamboozled' by 'legally ingenious' indyref2 case

Former Scotland Secretary Jim Murphy has said he is "bamboozled" that the Scottish Government's Supreme Court case has "come this far".

The argument for a new independence referendum is "legally ingenious" but unconvincing, the former Scottish Labour leader has said.

Murphy was an MP when the Scotland Bill was introduced to establish the devolved parliament in Edinburgh.

And he was amongst the most prominent members of the cross-party Better Together campaign to save the Union ahead of the 2014 independence referendum.

Speaking at an event for the Institute for Government (IfG) think tank, Murphy said he is now "surprised" that the Scottish Government's current drive to hold another constitutional vote "has come this far".

Two hearings took place in the UK Supreme Court this week as the SNP-Green administration seeks to prove that the Scottish Parliament has the legal authority to bring forward an advisory ballot on Scotland's place in the Union.

No legislation has yet been presented and earlier this year Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain told ministers she did not have the "necessary confidence" to state that the Scottish Parliament has the power to act without Westminster approval.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said that her party will fight the next general election as a "de facto" referendum, if the court concludes that the Scottish Parliament does not have the authority to legislate for a consultative referendum.

Judges will release their determination in the coming months.

Taking part in an online panel for IfG, Murphy said the SNP had asserted authority over Bain by submitting their own arguments, separate to those of the Scottish Government.

He said: "I'm surprised we've got this far in the process. I'm not disputing people's rights to take this process, but I'm surprised because the Supreme Court has been asked to rule on a piece of legislation that hasn't even been introduced into the Scottish Parliament, on an issue which Scotland's Lord Advocate is unwilling to certify as lawful, and is reduced to arguing that they want a consultative referendum with zero legal impact. 

"I'm also surprised that the SNP then, to some extent, bigfooted their own law officer by making their own submission to the Supreme Court. 

"And finally, I'm just bamboozled by the argument that a referendum on splitting up the United Kingdom doesn't relate to the United Kingdom. 

"I think it's legally ingenious in the way it's being argued, but I'm not convinced because the test in the Scotland Act... is does the matter relate to a reserved matter?

"On the basis that the Union of the Crowns, of the Union of the kingdoms of Scotland and England, and issues relating to the Parliament of the United Kingdom are reserved to the UK Parliament, I think by any reasonable test, this then relates to a reserved matter, and on that basis, I'm surprised we've come this far."

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