At an initial hearing in the Scottish Court of Session held on 3 Sep 2019, a petition for Judicial Review was dismissed by Lord Doherty finding that the PM’s advice on prorogation was, as a matter of high policy and political judgement, non-justiciable. There were no legal standards by which the courts could assess the decision. Even if this was wrong, Lord Doherty added, he was not persuaded, on what he had seen, that the reasons for the advice were unlawful.
The appeal to this decision was heard on 5-6 September and a summary of the appeal was released on 11 September.
The Inner House of the Court of Session has ruled that the Prime Minister’s advice to HM the Queen that the United Kingdom Parliament should be prorogued from a day between 9 and 12 September until 14 October was unlawful because it had the purpose of stymying Parliament.
This is a summary of the opinions of the court, which have been issued in draft form to the parties in light of the urgency of the case. This summary is provided to assist in understanding the court’s judgment. It does not form part of the reasons for the decision. The full opinion of the court is the only authoritative document.
The full opinions will be available on the Scottish Courts and Tribunals website at 12 noon on Friday 13 September 2019.
The Lord President, Lord Carloway, decided that although advice to HM the Queen on the exercise of the royal prerogative of prorogating Parliament was not reviewable on the normal grounds of judicial review, it would nevertheless be unlawful if its purpose was to stymie parliamentary scrutiny of the executive, which was a central pillar of the good governance principle enshrined in the constitution; this followed from the principles of democracy and the rule of law. The circumstances in which the advice was proffered and the content of the documents produced by the respondent demonstrated that this was the true reason for the prorogation.
Lord Brodie considered that whereas when the petition was raised the question was unlikely to have been justiciable, the particular prorogation that had occurred, as a tactic to frustrate Parliament, could legitimately be established as unlawful. This was an egregious case of a clear failure to comply with generally accepted standards of behaviour of public authorities. It was to be inferred that the principal reasons for the prorogation were to prevent or impede Parliament holding the executive to account and legislating with regard to Brexit, and to allow the executive to pursue a policy of a no deal Brexit without further Parliamentary interference.
Lord Drummond Young determined that the courts have jurisdiction to decide whether any power, under the prerogative or otherwise, has been legally exercised. It was incumbent on the UK Government to show a valid reason for the prorogation, having regard to the fundamental constitutional importance of parliamentary scrutiny of executive action. The circumstances, particularly the length of the prorogation, showed that the purpose was to prevent such scrutiny. The documents provided showed no other explanation for this. The only inference that could be drawn was that the UK Government and the Prime Minister wished to restrict Parliament.
The decision has been appealed by the Government to the Supreme Court which is due to be heard on 17 September 2019, together with an appeal by Miller et al on the decision in the case of Miller v The Prime Minister held on 5 September.