What is Section 35 and why is it controversial?
Section 35 of the Scotland Act 1998 is a provision that allows the UK Government to prevent the Scottish Parliament from passing laws that would affect reserved matters, such as defence, foreign affairs, immigration, and taxation. The UK Government can use Section 35 to block any Scottish bill that it considers to be incompatible with UK law or international obligations.
Section 35 has been rarely used in the past, but it has become a source of tension between the UK and Scottish Governments in recent years. The most notable example was the UK Government’s block on the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill, which aimed to make it easier for transgender people to change their legal gender. The UK Government argued that the bill interfered with reserved equality laws and challenged it in the Court of Session. The outcome of the legal challenge is still pending.
How did Labour MP Ian Murray respond to Section 35?
Ian Murray, the shadow Scottish secretary and Labour MP for Edinburgh South, was asked on BBC Radio’s Good Morning Scotland programme if he could rule out using Section 35 to block Scottish legislation if his party came to power. He said that he could not “categorically” say that, because Section 35 was designed by Donald Dewar, the first Scottish first minister, to make devolution work. He said that Section 35 should be a “very, very last resort” and not the “first resort” and that he would try to improve the relationship between the UK and Scottish Governments.
Murray said that his speech to the Labour conference in Liverpool later on Monday would address how to create a better partnership with the Scottish Government. He said that he was determined to work together with the SNP Government until the next Holyrood elections in 2026 and that he had a “real message of change” for the Scottish people.
What are the implications of Section 35 for Scotland’s future?
Section 35 has been seen by some as a threat to Scotland’s autonomy and a sign of Westminster’s interference in devolved matters. Some have argued that Section 35 undermines the principle of the Sewel Convention, which states that the UK Parliament will not normally legislate on devolved matters without the consent of the Scottish Parliament. Some have also suggested that Section 35 could be used to block other Scottish bills, such as those related to climate change, human rights, or independence.
On the other hand, some have defended Section 35 as a necessary safeguard to ensure the coherence and compatibility of UK law and international obligations. Some have also pointed out that Section 35 does not prevent the Scottish Parliament from legislating on devolved matters, but only requires it to do so in accordance with UK law and international obligations. Some have also argued that Section 35 could be used to protect Scotland’s interests from harmful or unpopular legislation imposed by Westminster.
The use of Section 35 has raised questions about the future of devolution and the relationship between Scotland and the rest of the UK. It has also added fuel to the debate over Scotland’s constitutional status and its right to self-determination.