Supreme Court unanimous that the Scottish government cannot hold an independence referendum without the UK government’s consent

As Andrew Eborn predicted, Supreme Court has unanimously held that the Scottish government cannot hold an independence referendum without the UK government's consent

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As Andrew Eborn predicted, Supreme Court has unanimously held that the Scottish government cannot hold an independence referendum without the UK government’s consent

Indyref2 – essential facts  

  • SNP committed to seek Indyref2
  • British Government refuses
  • Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that the Scottish government cannot hold an independence referendum without the UK government’s consent.
  • Court President Lord Reed – a Scottish judge – announced their decision at 9:45 am on Wednesday 23rd November
  • UK Government lawyers successfully claimed it would not be an “abstract opinion poll” but a clear attempt to terminate the Union

Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon is seeking to hold a new independence referendum.

Nicola Sturgeon instructed Scotland’s top law officer to make a referral to The Supreme Court on whether a referendum would be legal without permission from the British government.

The Supreme Court is the final court of appeal in the UK for civil cases, and for criminal cases from England, Wales, and Northern Ireland

The case was heard on 11th & 12th October almost exactly one year before Sturgeon aims to hold the vote. Scotland’s semi-autonomous government has published a bill outlining plans to hold the secession vote on 19th October 2023.

Scotland has a population of around 5.5 million. On 18th September 2014 55% of voters rejected independence.

During the Brexit referendum, however, while 51.9% of the total votes cast in the UK were in favour of leaving the European Union, 62% of those who voted in Scotland voted to remain.

Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party (SNP) argues that “Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will” means the question must be put to a second vote.

Following the pro-independence parties’ majority win in the Scottish parliament elections last year Nicola Sturgeon maintains the Scottish government has a mandate to hold a new independence vote.

The British government has refused consent for a new referendum arguing that the “once in a generation” matter was settled in 2014.

Dorothy Bain, the Lord Advocate – Nicola Sturgeon’s top law officer – asked the Supreme Court to rule on whether the Scottish Parliament could hold a referendum without Westminster’s permission.

She submitted that it could be argued an “advisory” poll is within devolved powers because it would not, in itself, break up the UK.

UK Government lawyers successfully claimed that a new vote would not be an “abstract opinion poll” but a clear attempt to terminate the Union.

In a legal submission to the Supreme Court, Lord Stewart of Dirleton, the Advocate General for Scotland, said that a plebiscite on Scottish independence would “plainly” relate to the union between England and Scotland, a reserved matter for which Holyrood does not have the power to legislate.

UK Government lawyers argued that it  cannot “credibly be suggested that the outcome of the referendum will be ‘advisory’ in the sense of being treated as a matter of academic interest only….A referendum is not, and is not designed to be, an exercise in mere abstract opinion polling at considerable public expense. Were the outcome to favour independence, it would be used – and no doubt used by the SNP as the central plank – to seek to build momentum towards achieving that end: the termination of the Union and the secession of Scotland. It is in precisely that hope that the Draft Bill is being proposed.”

The SNP claims it would be “constitutionally improper” to prevent it from implementing its
manifesto commitment to hold a new vote.

Nicola Sturgeon has doubled down on her plan of turning the next election into a single-issue vote on independence.

The other major parties involved in the vote are unlikely to agree that it constitutes a “de facto referendum”.

Nicola Sturgeon has announced a special SNP conference in 2023.

Questions remain including how an independent Scotland would get back into the EU.

https://www.supremecourt.uk/cases/docs/uksc-2022-0098-judgment.pdf

ANDREW EBORN – RIGHTING WRONGS
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