Sturgeon has no veto on leaving the EU, admits Alex Salmond
But former first minister says that second Scottish independence referendum is ‘very much on the cards’
NICOLA STURGEON’s threat to block Brexit fell apart yesterday as her predecessor Alex Salmond admitted the Scottish Parliament could not stop Britain leaving the EU.
The former first minister, who described Ms Sturgeon’s leadership since the vote on Thursday as “inspiring”, said Westminster could override any move by Holyrood to deny consent.
Amid warnings that it would be “highly damaging” to Britain’s democracy if the will of the people was overturned, he also insisted she had never suggested she had a veto.
Ms Sturgeon said on Sunday that withdrawal from the EU required a legislation consent motion from the Scottish Parliament because it impacted directly on its devolved responsibilities.
Such motions are routinely passed by the devolved administrations to consent to Westminster legislating on devolved matters.
Ms Sturgeon said Nationalist MSPs would seek to block any such motion, even if it meant this blocked Brexit. According to a Lords briefing note, Scotland would have to agree to Brexit in order to remove European legislation from Scots law.
But some constitutional experts rejected that view, with Prof James Chalmers, of Glasgow University, pointing out that the Scotland Act only says the UK Parliament will not “normally” legislate on devolved issues without agreement. Westminster had always had the power to overrule any refusal of legislative consent, he said.
David Cameron’s spokesman also said there was no requirement for the Scottish Parliament to approve the EU withdrawal plan, as foreign policy was reserved to Westminster.
Ms Sturgeon is seeking talks with Brussels and member states in the coming days with a view to finding some way to secure Scotland’s place in the EU while it remains part of the UK.
But she has repeatedly warned that if it emerges that the best way for Scotland to stay in Europe is to become independent, then that is likely to trig- ger a second independence referendum before the end of 2018.
She claims it would be “democratically unacceptable” for Scotland to be dragged out of Europe against its will and in a debate in the Scottish Parliament today she will seek a mandate from MSPs to strengthen her hand in talks with EU institutions.
Mr Salmond told BBC Radio Scotland that Ms Sturgeon knew “full well” that a consent motion did not amount to a veto, adding: “The word veto never passed her lips, because Westminster has an override. So the Scottish Parliament can block but Westminster can then override.”
He said Ms Sturgeon’s negotiations with EU leaders would centre on securing Scotland’s place in Europe, adding: “If the answer to that is the only way you can do that is through independence, then she brings the independence referendum off the table and very much on the cards.”
Westminster would have to approve a new Scottish referendum. Mr Cameron’s spokesman said: “The reasons for Scotland to be in the UK are as strong now as they were 18 months ago. What we all need to do is focus on getting the best deal for Scotland and the UK in these negotiations and the last thing that Scotland needs now is a divisive referendum.”
David Mundell, the Scottish Secretary, accused Ms Sturgeon of “opportunism” in an effort to further her “independence agenda”.
Daniel Kawczynski, the Tory proBrexit MP, warned on the Today programme on Radio 4 that any attempt to overturn the will of the people would be “completely unacceptable and highly damaging to our democracy”.
Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP leader, had said her party could block a Brexit motion