EDINBURGH – Scotland’s highest court of appeal ruled on Wednesday that Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament for five weeks in the run-up to Brexit was unlawful as it had the purpose of hampering debate.
Three judges at the Edinburgh-based Court of Session overturned a previous verdict and ruled in favor of 78 MPs and peers who challenged the prime minister’s decision to request the prorogation, claiming it was designed to cut them out of the Brexit process.
“All three First Division judges have decided that the PM’s advice to the HM the Queen is justiciable, that it was motivated by the improper purpose of stymying Parliament and that it, and what has followed from it, is unlawful,” the court said in a statement.
“The Court will according make an Order declaring that the Prime Minister’s advice to the HM the Queen and the prorogation which followed thereon was unlawful as is thus null and of no effect.”
The decision from the Scottish court, presided by Lord Carloway, currently the most senior judge in Scotland, contradicted a ruling from the High Court, which has jurisdiction in England and Wales, last week.
The UK’s Supreme Court is set to make a final ruling on the cases on September 17 as well as a similar case from Northern Ireland.
At the end of August, Conservative Party leader Johnson asked Queen Elizabeth to prorogue Parliament for five weeks between from mid-September to October 14, when the government would set out its legislative agenda for the coming year.
The government sold it as part of normal parliamentary procedure but opposition parties, led by Labour and the Liberal Democrats, billed it a “coup” designed to stop lawmakers from having a say on Brexit, which, as things stand, is still due to go ahead on October 31.
A cross-party alliance of opposition politicians took the case to the courts.
Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister and leader of the pro-independence Scottish National Party, said: “Today’s Court of Session judgment is of huge constitutional significance – but the immediate political implications are clear.”
Court says prorogation was unlawful and null and void – so Parliament must be recalled immediately to allow the essential work of scrutiny to continue.”
Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, said: “Boris Johnson has been found out. Parliament must be recalled immediately.”
Meanwhile, Dominic Grieve, one of the Tory MPs who voted against the government last week, said that Johnson should resign if it was found that he misled the Queen with his reasoning behind the suspension.
Johnson, who took over from his predecessor Theresa May following an internal party ballot, lost six votes in as many days in the House of Commons, the UK’s lower chamber, and has lost control of the Brexit process.
Banded together by the prorogation, opposition MPs seized the parliamentary agenda and passed a bill forcing Johnson to request a Brexit extension should he fail to land a deal with the EU by October 18. They also blocked his efforts to hold a snap general election on October 15.
Johnson fired 21 rebel Tory MPs who voted with the opposition and has been beset by a series of resignations that have seen him lose his working majority.
Parliament was suspended in the early hours of Tuesday morning amid cries of “shame on you” from the opposition benches.