Image Credit: First Minister of Scotland

What is the role of Scotland in triggering Article 50?

On 23 June a series of motions were put into play that have challenged and divided the UK ever since. With D-day now set for March, Theresa May is maintaining her “Brexit means Brexit” pledge by warning that more immigration control could come at the expense of the single market. Nicola Sturgeon has clearly and repeatedly stated that this sacrifice would be detrimental to Scotland, yet the Government are ploughing on regardless. May had previously promised that Article 50 would not be invoked until a ‘UK-wide approach’ was found, but has since abandoned this guarantee.

A UK-wide approach is way off. Down south Farage has encouraged outright rebellion if ‘Strong Brexit’ does not materialise. In Northern Island, Democratic Unionists are likely to back Brexit, with the Ulster Unionists likely to oppose. Wales is for; Scotland against. Currently, a unified approach is not the case, yet May has bowed to the pressure of the three Brexiteers and is hurriedly herding all nations into the unknown, without a plan, without the resources to negotiate, and without UK-wide support. Brexit should go no further until a consensus is found.

Since Mrs May has thrown caution to the wind to jump into bed with Trump supporter Nigel Farage, our only hope lies with the formidable First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Scotland voted against Brexit by 62 per cent, the largest remain vote of all the devolved nations. With such a significant proportion of Scots voting to remain, she certainly has a strong mandate to enter the ring.

Plainly, Sturgeon is right when she says, “the job of this government is to protect Scotland’s interests, Scotland voted to remain in the EU and my job is therefore to protect our place in Europe and the single market”. Put simply, Scotland did not vote to leave the European Union (EU) so it should not be dragged out. She is only doing her job when implementing these interests.

Holyrood should have a vote, and The Scotland Act gives the First Minister further rights to call for one. If the UK alters its relationship with the EU, Scotland should have a vote, since it alone exercises EU law in its devolved area. It is only right that MSPs, in addition to MPs, should get a vote on triggering Article 50.

Sturgeon’s move to enter the Scottish Law Officer in opposition to the Government in the Supreme Court is both agile and legally sound. Scotland has a strong grounding if the Law Officer is heard. Pushing for a Scottish presence in the case, as a true nationalist leader should, the deft guard dog of the north is manoeuvring Scotland into a favourable position with the EU.

With no precedent for these events, Sturgeon has a blank page ahead of her. Assuming a Westminster vote will be enforced, Sturgeon – without a vote herself – should then order her 56 MPs to vote against triggering Article 50. Some have argued she should not be able to do so, since the result of the 2014 independence referendum binds Scotland to accept Brexit. Yet, at that time the nation was not aware that a ‘no’ vote meant an unwarranted exit from Europe; if they had, the vote would have been very different.

The central government’s rash and muddled steps towards a historical paradigm shift have worried enough Scots to rouse the independence question again. These errors in judgement seem set to end the union as we know it.

Image Credit: First Minister of Scotland

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