AN unelected peer has said Westminster should have the power to FINE Scottish ministers working to promote independence

Lord Foulkes on Monday called on the UK Government to introduce a regime of tough sanctions for Scottish ministers who are working to advance the case for Scottish independence.

Speaking to The National, he compared the situation to local councils and said central government could crack the whip if council leaders encroached on the responsibilities of Westminster.

The Labour lord, who has served both in the Commons and the Scottish Parliament, said he believed the Scottish Government was acting outwith its bounds as set out in the Scotland Act.

Devolution allows the Scottish Parliament to set laws in areas such as health and education – but bars it from legislating in matters which are reserved to the UK Parliament, including defence, foreign policy and the constitution.

Lord Foulkes sparked outrage when he used a question in the unelected upper chamber to take a tougher stance with the Scottish Government on the constitution.

He argued this was at odds with the terms of devolution – but noted there is currently no procedure for sanctioning ministers for working on matters which were reserved to the UK Parliament.

Foulkes said ministers could be personally fined if they worked on projects outside the powers of the Scottish Parliament – and even raised the possibility of barring them from holding office.

He said: “If local governments do things they are not entitled to do, if they go beyond their remit, they could be sanctioned and the sanctions can vary.

“They could be financial, on the people taking the decision which is not appropriate, not within their powers.

“Or, if it’s very serious, they could be disqualified from office, and that’s happened in local government in a number of cases in the past.

READ MORE: UK to consider 'sanctions' over Scottish Government independence spending

“When we passed the Scotland Act – and I was one of the people who voted for it, voted for it as it changed, as well – we never envisaged that a Scottish Government would move into reserved areas and so because we never envisaged it, there was no provision for sanctions included.”

Pressed on whether the fines would be levied on the ministers personally, rather than the Scottish Government’s budget, the Labour peer said: “I think it would be more effective if it was to the minister involved, the individual involved in taking that decision.

“When companies do things that they shouldn’t do and the companies are fined, that harms the shareholders or the customers, not the directors and the shareholders and the customers aren’t involved.

“In this case, the council taxpayers, or the income taxpayers aren’t involved. The decision’s made by the ministers, so it would be the ministers that would be sanctioned.”

Asked what work could lead to a fine or a minister being barred from holding office, Foulkes said: “I’ll give you a ridiculous almost example, if they were to set up their own army in Scotland, in other words, pretend they’ve got their own defence policy or if they were to commission naval ships, then that would clearly be beyond their responsibility.”

He added: “They’re spending too much time, instead of running the services for which they are responsible, they’re spending too much time preparing for something which isn’t going to happen. I mean, there isn’t going to be a referendum on independence for the foreseeable future and both the Conservative and Labour parties in Westminster have made that clear.”

His comments were met with outrage and derision from pro-Yes politicians, who said the “witterings of Lord Foulkes should be of little concern to any sensible person”.

The National understands the Government has made no further commitment to introducing a sanctions regime other than a minister responding to Lord Foulkes on Monday by saying she would "take [his] point away".  

SNP MP Tommy Sheppard (below), who is in an ongoing battle with the Cabinet Office to reveal secret polling the department carried on support for independence, said voters would “see the irony of an unelected member of the House of Lords” intervening on matters of democracy.

The National: SNP MP Tommy Sheppard says that the party must be honest about where it currently finds itself

He said: “This latest intervention from an unelected Lord demonstrates why Labour cannot be trusted with Scotland's future.

"Voters across Scotland will see the irony of an unelected member of the House of Lords attempt to dictate how the democratically elected Scottish Government conducts its business. 

READ MORE: Scotland reacts as UK mulls independence campaign 'sanctions'

"Whether it's unelected Labour Lords, Tory MPs, or Labour shadow ministers - Westminster seems determined to stymie the Scottish Parliament at every possible turn.

"The people of Scotland elected a pro-independence majority of MSPs to Holyrood, on a manifesto commitment to deliver an informed choice on their constitutional future - and that is what we intend to do.

"No unelected Lord or UK minister will dictate how our democratic institution operates."

Ross Greer, the Scottish Greens’ spokesperson for external affairs, said: “It's obviously ridiculous to have unelected peers like George Foulkes calling for fines for democratically elected Scottish Government ministers who are sticking to the manifesto they were elected.

“After all, this is a man whose main political claim to fame was his attempt to ban the video game Space Invaders.

"In the years since Brexit, we have seen successive UK governments working to obstruct and block our Scottish Parliament on key issues, whether it the gender recognition reform which they vetoed or the bottle and can deposit return scheme that they sabotaged.

"The witterings of Lord Foulkes should be of little concern to any sensible person, but what is much more concerning is the position of Keir Starmer and the Labour leadership.

“They have sat on the sidelines while the Tories wielded a Westminster veto against Scotland and have said nothing about repealing the Brexit power grab laws if they win the next election.

"I eagerly await the day that an independent Scotland can move on from this nonsense and be a proper democracy without having to indulge an unelected chamber full of failed politicians and dodgy donors."

The National: Alba MP Neale Hanvey has published criticism by a legal expert of the Supreme Court's independence

Alba’s Westminster leader Neale Hanvey (above) said Parliament should be recalled from its summer recess if the UK Government does not distance itself from the possibility of introducing a sanctions regime.

READ MORE: Have your say: Should Yes be on the ballot paper at the next election?

He said: “It’s now clear that not only does the UK Government intend to continue its plunder of Scotland’s vast natural energy resources, but it also now intends to dictate to Scotland how it can spend what little it gets from the block grant, for having the temerity to pursue our lawful right to self-determination.

“Westminster clearly thinks it can spend Scotland’s wealth on whatever it likes; weapons of mass destruction; HS2, etc, whilst simultaneously telling the Scottish Parliament what it can and cannot spend our resources on.

“This is the stuff of tin-pot dictatorships, not of a supposedly respectful union of equals.

“But it’s not just morally bankrupt and vulgar, it puts the UK, as a signatory to multilateral international human rights treaties in breach of their obligations which are binding under international law on all states."

Hanvey added: “It is astonishing for any government to bring forward proposals to deny the human rights of a specific ethnic and cultural group of people, but to do under the cover of parliamentary recess is the act of a cowardly government.

“Therefore, if the UK Government does not withdraw this policy and its threat to the human rights of the people of Scotland, then they must be recalled to Parliament.”