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update deskBoycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS)

Scotland has ‘no power’ to reject BDS clampdown

Scottish lawmakers can't block a bill banning anti-Israel boycotts if it's passed by the U.K. parliament, says UK Lawyers for Israel CEO.

An anti-Israel BDS movement protest in London. Credit: Claudia Gabriela Marques Vieira via Wikimedia Commons.
An anti-Israel BDS movement protest in London. Credit: Claudia Gabriela Marques Vieira via Wikimedia Commons.

Scottish ministers have sought to block a U.K.-wide bill that seeks to impose fines for boycotting Israel. 

The legislators say the Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill, which would bar councils and universities from banning Israel, threatens their authority. 

However, Jonathan Turner, chief executive of UK Lawyers for Israel, an association of British lawyers who protect the rights of Israel and Israelis, told JNS that the Scottish government may find its hands are tied.

“My understanding is that the Scottish Parliament has no legal power to stop the bill coming into force in Scotland if it is passed by the U.K. Parliament in its present form,” said Turner. 

The Scottish Parliament can refuse to consent to legislation in certain circumstances under the Sewel Convention, but even if it does, the U.K. Parliament can ignore that refusal. And the U.K. parliament’s decision to go ahead without Scottish parliamentary consent cannot be challenged in the courts, according to Turner.

Turner told JNS that the anti-BDS bill “is not contrary to the Sewel Convention, since it relates to foreign policy and international trade, which are not matters devolved to the Scottish Parliament.” (“Devolved” refers to the Scottish government receiving extra autonomy in domestic policy areas, including education, health and transportation.)

An independent Scotland would have more sway over its foreign policy, but recent polling suggests more than half of Scottish adults would not support independence from the United Kingdom. Support for Scottish independence has dropped further of late, as the main pro-independence party has been mired in financial controversy.

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