A LEADING lawyer who advises Scottish Labour has spoken out for the first time to condemn Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick’s decision to reject a motion letting Holyrood block the Trade Union Bill north of the Border.

Legal expert Patrick McGuire, a partner at Thompsons Solicitors, insisted it was “wrong on several respects” and “defies logical analysis”.

Labour and the SNP have both stated opposition to the UK government’s Trade Union Bill, which would clamp down on the powers of unions.

SNP ministers had asked Marwick to approve a legislative consent memorandum(LCM), which would have allowed Holyrood to block the Westminster Bill from applying in Scotland, claiming that it infringed on devolved matters, but she rejected the move, siding with the UK Government which asserts that the Bill covers fully reserved matters.

McGuire said: “Her decision defies logical analysis. I know she is independent – and my God has she proven to be independent – but every single member of her own party, the Scottish Labour party and everyone else in Scotland wants an LCM on this and she is the only person standing against it. It is bizarre to put it mildly.

“This isn’t a party political issue because, although it was the Labour Party I was giving advice to, this is one of those rare moments in Scottish politics where Labour and the SNP are absolutely at one here. Everyone is united in wanting to do anything we can about this atrocious piece of legislation to try and defeat it in Scotland, and at the very least hold an LCM to vote it down.

“My view is that perhaps because of how the Presiding Officer was advised by members of the Scottish Parliament's lawyers, I think the advice that was issued was wrong on several respects, it’s that black and white.

“Procedurally it is wrong. In terms of the standing orders and what that says about how an LCM is to be taken forward [it] is clear that the Scottish Government shall prepare a legislative consent memorandum which sets out the basis on which they say there is an issue here.

“The rules are clear that when that is done, the Presiding Officer shall refer it to the appropriate committee, there is nothing in standing orders that allows her to kibosh the whole thing and to prevent that happening.

“Something has happened to cause the Presiding Officer not go follow what I think is clearly set out in standing orders. I have little doubt she is wrong on the substantive point as well, because of the way she has interpreted standing orders.

“In particular, if a Bill at Westminster impacts on the executive competence of the Scottish ministers then it is open to an LCM. I have little doubt that the Trade Union Bill does impact on the competence of the Scottish ministers. The Labour party and as far as I’m aware the Scottish Government have no doubt.”

When Labour asked Marwick to change her mind, MSP James Kelly was ejected from the chamber while protesting. Kelly said Scottish Labour MSPs are “continuing to fight this attack on workers’ rights”.

He added: “I am working with colleagues to push for a change to standing orders to allow MSPs to bring forward a legislative consent motion to block this Bill.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “While we are disappointed by this, we will be seeking other ways for the Scottish Parliament to express its discontent with the legislation. The Government intends to submit a general memorandum setting out our objections to the Bill for a parliamentary committee to consider.”

Marwick said: “The Parliament’s legislative consent is not required and it is not competent to lodge a Legislative Consent Memorandum.”