THE Scottish Government is “bitterly disappointed” by the Supreme Court ruling two bills were outside the legislative competence of Holyrood but will abide by it, John Swinney has said.

The Deputy First Minister said the ruling “made plain” that the Scottish Parliament is “constitutionally limited”.

He added that the referral to the Supreme Court by UK law officers was “not a legal but a political intervention”.

We told earlier how Judges unanimously agreed that the the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill, and the European Charter of Local Self-Government (ECLSG), went beyond the limits of the Scottish Parliament’s powers.

The UNCRC sought to enshrine the protections on children’s rights into Scots law.

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Speaking in Holyrood after the ruling was published, Swinney said that Holyrood unanimously passing the UNCRC bill was a moment where MSPs had come together to make a “significant statement of intent about who we are and what we stand for” and he “felt proud” that the historic step had been taken.

He said that the Scottish Government will abide by the ruling, and look at ways the bill can be passed with modifications.

Swinney said the UNCRC took the Scottish Parliament into “new territory” and that the judgement doesn’t prevent MSPs from amending or appealing legislation in devolved areas.

However, he added: “The judgement does however expose the devolution settlement as even more limited than we all, indeed the Scottish parliament itself, had understood.

“It sets out new constraints on the ability of our democratically elected Scottish Parliament to legislate to protect children’s rights in the way it determines, after open and careful consideration, appropriate roles for the judiciary and that parliament in this protection.”

He added that the limitations on devolved competence are for the “mere reason that existing statutory provision just happens to be in an act of the Westminster parliament”.

The National:

Swinney (pictured) continued: “For example, the Scottish Parliament can fully protect children’s rights by declarations of incompatibility if those rights are affected by acts of this parliament, like gaelic education under the Education Scotland Act 2016, but not if they are in Westminster legislation from before legislation since the Education Scotland Act 1980.

“Even if the subject matter of that legislation is wholly devolved and could be repealed and replaced by the Scottish parliament.

“Our own children in our own schools in our own country, but Westminster legislation.

“So we cannot apply the UNCRC to that legislation, that is the ludicrous constitutional position Scotland finds itself in.”

Closing his statement, Swinney said: “Some have said that the Scottish Parliament is the most powerful devolved legislature in the world.

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“On the day that the Supreme Court has confirmed boundaries on our ability to protect our children, I regret to say it certainly doesn't feel anything like that.”

Donald Cameron, shadow constitution secretary for the Tories, said his party “welcomed the legal judgement” and asked if Swinney would apologise for creating the “unnecessary delay” to the legislation being given royal assent.

However, Swinney hit back and said the delay was created by the UK law officers referring the legislation to the Supreme Court, adding that he makes no apology for trying to “protect the interests and the rights of children and young people in our country”.

He added that the UK law officers taking Holyrood to court to stop this was an “absolute disgrace”.

SNP MSP Michelle Thomson later asked Swinney if he agreed that the UK law officers had no duty to refer the case, and that their decision was political.

Swinney agreed and said that the law officers actions meant Holyrood cannot extend rights to those it wants to.

He said simply: “This was not a legal but a political intervention.”

And, in response to Tory MSP Megan Gallagher’s question which claimed Swinney was doing nothing but “stirring up constitutional grievance” and that the Supreme Court has ruled this as deliberate, the Deputy First Minister was scathing.

He said: “The sort of straightforward way through this would have been for our bill to get royal assent, without objection from the UK law officers.

“It was supported by every single member in this parliament. What on earth are the Conservatives doing objecting to the passage of legislation that they themselves supported?

“Do they not understand how ridiculous their line of argument is today?”

It comes as the Scottish Greens said the ruling was a “dark day for democracy”, while First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warned of the implications of what the court ruling means.