Hands off! SNP lashes out at UK as Scotland faces controversial justice loss
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Justice Secretary Robert Buckland QC has started a review of the judicial review concept, a procedure by which a court can review an administrative action by a public authority. The concept can hold public bodies and governments to account for the legality of their actions.
Mr Buckland, who is also the Lord Chancellor, said the review would apply to all legal systems in the UK.
But the move could trigger the end of the Union via a second independence referendum, with the SNP raising significant concerns about the independence of the Scottish legal system, which are separate to the England and Wales system.
Joanna Cherry QC, the SNP’s Home Affairs and Justice spokesperson, warned the concept could be another “attack on devolution” and a breach of the Act of Union 1707.
She stressed the much-cherished power of judicial review in Scotland would be suppressed.
Ms Cherry, who is also an MP at Westminster, said in a letter to Mr Buckland: “As you will be aware, Scotland’s system of civil justice is a devolved matter under the Scotland Act and therefore the preserve of the Scottish Parliament.
“Moreover, the authority and privileges of the Court of Session including its inherent supervisory jurisdiction are protected by Article 19 of the Acts of Union and the underlying Treaty of Union.
“The scope of the review also raises serious questions for the rule of law which will be of concern across the UK.”
She stressed the British Parliament cannot infer with the Scottish legal system and suggested we may even get a “ruling on the legal status of the treaty of union.”
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Article 19 of the 1707 Act guarantees Scotland and England for all time “the same authority and privileges” as before the Union.
Roddy Dunlop QC, Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, who represent Scottish Lawyers, told Express.co.uk they would be concerned by any suggestion that the “executive might interfere with the ability of the independent judiciary to check abuse of executive power.”
They added: “The separation of powers is ingrained in our constitution, as are the powers of the Court of Session to hold governments – both UK and devolved – to account.
“Judges do not engage in politics.
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“They decide cases based on the rule of law.
“Political interference with the ability of judges to decide cases in accordance with the rule of law would be unconstitutional and unacceptable.”
Ms Cherry has previously suggested Scotland could gain independence by using next year’s Holyrood election as a proxy ballot on independence.
The MP called on Nicola Sturgeon to consider the option if Boris Johnson decides to refuse a second vote.
She said the proxy vote could be an alternative route and clear pathway independence as a “Plan B”.
Ms Cherry who helped to lead a successful case against PM Boris Johnson from closing down the Commons last year believed the Scottish Government could win a legal challenge against Westminster.
In response to the concerns, a Ministry of Justice spokesman, said: “Judicial review is an essential part of our democracy.
“The independent panel will ensure this important check on government power is maintained, while making sure the process is not open to abuse and delay.
“The Scottish legal system has been distinct but entwined with the English and Welsh system for over 300 years and this panel has no intention of changing that.
“Nonetheless, we have appointed an esteemed Scottish law academic to the panel to assess whether any changes might impact Scotland.”
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