IN what was being interpreted last night as a clear sign that Scottish judges do not trust the Prime Minister to fully comply with the law, the highest civil court in Scotland decided to wait and see if he does.

In what was yet another damaging defeat for Boris Johnson and his government, the Inner House of the Court of Session, sitting as an appeal court, refused to stop the ongoing case against the Tory leader’s attempts to circumvent provisions of the Benn Act.

The three petitioners who brought the case, SNP MP Joanna Cherry, Good Law Project director Jolyon Maugham QC and businessman Dale Vince, asked the three judges in the court, Lord Carloway, Brodie and Drummond Young, to continue the case to ensure that Johnson fully complies with the provisions of the Benn Act, which includes a section that states he must accept an extension of Brexit after October 31 if he is offered it by the EU.

Although the Prime Minister has said he would rather “die in a ditch” than delay Brexit beyond Halloween, it was clear last night that if the EU does offer an extension he will have to accept it, unless Parliament passes his deal and completes all the Brexit legislation by the end of the month. If he does not comply with the Benn Act, and having given solemn undertakings to the court that he would, Johnson could theoretically face contempt of court proceedings, with penalties that could range from “a slap on the wrist to imprisonment”, according to the solicitor for the petitioners, Elaine Motion.

During the short proceedings yesterday, Aidan O’Neill QC, lawyer for the petitioners, accepted the Prime Minister had observed part of the legislation by sending the request by letter to the EU.

This is despite the fact he did not sign it and also sent a second letter – which he did put his name to – that said a delay would be a mistake.

O’Neill said the Prime Minister was “sailing very close to the wind” and “not entirely in accord with spirit” of the Act by sending the second letter, in which he said an extension would “damage” the UK’s interests.

Carloway, the Lord President and Scotland’s most senior judge, commented: “I think it is fair to say it was a very carefully written letter.”

O’Neill added: “We don’t know when the EU will come back with a response for the request.

“So it depends on it coming back and ensuring the Prime Minister carried out the duties imposed upon him within the Benn Act.”

The court then heard that the Prime Minister had complied with the Benn Act.

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According to David Johnston QC, representing the UK Government, the appeal should be dismissed as the letter had been sent and Prime Minister had “complied with the statutory obligations”.

Johnston added: “There is no reason for these proceedings to continue. The normal course in such circumstances would be to refuse [continuation].”

Issuing judgement after a short adjournment, Carloway said the decision would be delayed under similar terms to those in the previous hearing, when the court had continued the case to see if the Benn Act was complied with.

He said: “The court considers that the case should be continued until it is clear that the obligations under the 2019 (Benn) Act have been complied with in full.”

Joanna Cherry added: “The decision keeps the Sword of Damocles hanging over Boris Johnson, and to make sure he fully complies with the law and the cross-party Benn Act.

“This is a victory for those of us who have been campaigning tirelessly to make sure he follows the law.”

Jolyon Maugham wrote on Twitter: “I am delighted with the court’s decision. It is a pity to have to say it, but this is not a Prime Minister who can be trusted to comply with the law.

“And because he cannot be trusted he must be supervised.”

Speaking outside the court, Elaine Motion said that the court’s decision was “absolutely” a victory for the petitioners and a defeat for the UK Government.

Professor Katherina Becker was among the demonstrators outside the Edinburgh court. She commented: “It is good that the judges are keeping oversight to see that he fully complies with the Act.”