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Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 July, 2003, 15:53 GMT 16:53 UK
MP's call over supreme court
Tony Blair and Jack McConnell
Tony Blair's reshuffle brought constitutional change
A nationalist MP has demanded answers to why Scottish ministers were not directly consulted on plans for a new UK supreme court.

Annabelle Ewing, the Scottish National Party's home affairs spokesperson, made the call in the House of Commons on Tuesday.

She asked why politicians north of the border were not consulted on the far-reaching plans which would have implications for Scottish civil cases and may also act as a constitutional court, settling disputes over the powers of the Holyrood parliament.

Ms Ewing said: "Given that these proposals will have a direct and significant bearing on the administration of justice in Scotland, which is of course devolved, does this not reflect a breathtaking contempt on the part of the prime minister toward the Scottish Parliament and toward democracy in Scotland?"

The move to create the supreme court was unveiled by Tony Blair in last month's controversial cabinet reshuffle.

'Arrogant contempt'

The SNP's criticism has been echoed by the Conservatives who have also accused Westminster of showing "contempt" for Scottish interests.

The Tory's Lord James Douglas Hamilton said: "If the prime minister on his own whim, makes a decision with fundamental, far reaching consequences, without consulting the Scottish Parliament, that is showing contempt for the institution he is trying to create."

"I think it is a sign of the quite arrogant contempt for which the prime minister and his ministers hold the Scottish Parliament and Scottish democracy," said the SNP's justice spokesperson Nicola Sturgeon.

Lord Falconer was placed in charge of the new constitutional affairs department, overseeing devolution at Westminister.

The opportunity for detailed consultation about how it will be done now exists
Lord Falconer

He insisted the correct process was followed.

"The opportunity for detailed consultation about how it will be done now exists," he said.

"We must listen as closely as possible to what the whole of the United Kindom, including Scotland, say about how the supreme court should be introduced."

Lord Falconer said the principle of a supreme court was accepted in legal circles but added that "great attention" would have to paid to concerns raised about the impact on Scots law.

Last week, Scotland's most senior Law Lord warned that plans for a supreme court could put Scots law and the devolution system at stake.

Lord Hope of Craighead said there were "crucial questions" to be answered.

'Partnership collapsed'

BBC Scotland political correspondent Glenn Campbell said the situation does not bode well for future cross border relations.

"On the creation of a supreme court there was no prior consultation at all, the First Minister Jack McConnell at the very earliest may have heard a few hours before.

"It all adds to an impression that if the government in London knows little about Scotland, it seems to care even less, the partnership between the two administrations sometimes collapses.

"If that's what happens when there is a Labour administration in London and a Labour-led one in Scotland, heaven help us when the two are a different colour."




WATCH AND LISTEN
Lord Falconer on Good Morning Scotland
"The supreme court has to be a court for the whole of the United Kingdom"



SEE ALSO:
Law Lord questions justice reform
27 Jun 03  |  Scotland
Falconer defends cabinet reshuffle
16 Jun 03  |  Politics
Blair warned over fresh revolt
15 Jun 03  |  Politics
Legal concerns over Blair's reforms
14 Jun 03  |  Politics
Sweeping changes to justice system
12 Jun 03  |  Politics


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