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by Andrew Learmonth
13 April 2021
Nicola Sturgeon blasts UK government's 'morally repugnant' supreme court challenge to Holyrood children's law

Fraser Bremner/Scottish Daily Mail/PA Wire/PA Images

Nicola Sturgeon blasts UK government's 'morally repugnant' supreme court challenge to Holyrood children's law

THE UK Government is heading to the Supreme Court to challenge Scottish Government legislation that directly incorporates the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into domestic law.

Ministers in London say the new legislation - which was passed unanimously in Holyrood just weeks before recess - is outwith Holyrood's legal competence and encroaches on Westminster’s powers.

Nicola Sturgeon called the move “jaw-dropping” and “morally repugnant”. 

The laws at the heart of the legal battle are the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill and the European Charter of Local Self-Government (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill.

They, in effect, make it illegal for any public body in Scotland to infringe upon the rights laid out in the charter.

The bills have not yet received Royal Assent.

Before the legislation was passed, Scottish secretary Alister Jack wrote to Deputy First Minister John Swinney to ask for changes. He said the legislation would place legal obligations on UK ministers in reserved areas.

Swinney called the letter "menacing".

Taking to Twitter last night, Sturgeon said: “Jaw-dropping. The UK Tory government is going to Court to challenge a law passed by @scotparl unanimously. And for what? To protect their ability to legislate/act in ways that breach children’s rights in Scotland. Politically catastrophic, but also morally repugnant.”

A UK government source told the Times that the First Minister knew the legal action was likely. 

“This delay to the legislation could easily have been avoided,” the source said. “Sadly, it appears the Scottish government is more interested in stirring a constitutional row than getting the UNCRC Bill into law at the first opportunity.”

Willie Rennie, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, said that the legal move was “petty and spiteful politics from the Conservatives”.

He added: “When the best thing they have to offer is a legal assault on children’s rights, you know you are looking at a party who are dead in the water.”

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said: "The Conservatives are bereft of compassion and have completely lost their way. 

"At this time of national crisis, we should be pulling together to build a fairer Scotland, not playing petty political games.

"Scotland deserves a better opposition."

A spokeswoman for the UK government said yesterday: “UK government law officers have today referred two bills from the Scottish parliament to the Supreme Court under Section 33 of the Scotland Act 1998.

“The UK government law officers’ concerns are not about the substance of the legislation, rather whether parts are outwith the legislative competence of the Scottish parliament.”

Read the most recent article written by Andrew Learmonth - MSPs expected to confirm SNP leader as first minister

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