Nicola Sturgeon has hit out at “pitiful, pathetic and desperate” comments from Downing Street which called into question the integrity of Scottish judges.
The first minister was one of the first to condemn accusations made by a Number 10 source that Scottish judges were politically biased after the Court of Session ruled that Boris Johnson’s advice to the Queen on the suspension of Parliament had been unlawful.
The SNP has called on the prime minister to get a grip over his office, criticising these briefings as “dictatorial and dangerous” and saying it is “almost as if they’re going out of their way to make the case for independence.”
Scottish Tory MSPs also weighed in with criticism.
Interim leader Jackson Carlaw said: “I don’t much care where the sources are from who might suggest otherwise, we have absolute confidence in the independence and integrity of the Scottish judiciary.”
Fellow Tory MSP Adam Tomkins said: “To politicians who don’t like court judgements: don’t attack the judges or the independence of the legal system. Don’t ever do that.
“Appeal, test your legal arguments in a superior court. Why does this even need saying?”
Following the reaction, Downing Street was forced into a screeching U-turn yesterday afternoon.
The prime minister’s official spokesman, at an impromptu briefing in Westminster, clarified: “We have absolute respect for the independence of the judiciary.”
Pressed on whether aides who question the integrity of Scotland’s judiciary should be in Number 10, he said: “All I can do is set out the position of the prime minister and Number 10 and that is that we have absolute respect for the independence of the judiciary.
“You’ll see the attorney general has also set out his total confidence in the independence of the judiciary in every case.”
Reacting to the judgement, the spokesman added: “We are disappointed by the decision and we will appeal to the UK Supreme Court.
“The UK Government needs to bring forward a strong domestic legislative agenda.
“Proroguing Parliament is the legal and necessary way of delivering this.”
Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary, Sir Keir Starmer, said Parliament should now be recalled as soon as possible.
He said: “Most people didn’t believe Boris Johnson, but for the courts to find he has unlawfully shut down Parliament and that his motive wasn’t the one he said it was?
“That’s very powerful.
“I call on him to recall Parliament. Let’s get it back open, and sitting this afternoon and tomorrow, so we can debate what happens next and we can debate this judgement.”
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford has written to Mr Johnson urging the same.
In his correspondence he says “Every day that Parliament remains suspended, you and the UK Government are shutting down democracy”.
Mr Blackford’s deputy, Aberdeen North MP Kirsty Blackman, told the Press and Journal that MPs would be “thinking about their options” in the coming days if the prime minister refused to obey the judgement.
She said: “We will hold this Government to account anyway possible. I believe the prime minister cannot avoid this.”