Scotland can't hold second independence referendum without UK Government consent, Supreme Court rules

Scotland can't hold second independence referendum without UK Government consent, Supreme Court rules

Updated: 4 days, 22 hours, 1 second ago

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A court has ruled that the Scottish Government will not be able to hold an independence referendum without Westminster's approval. The Supreme Court delivered its judgement today, November 23, after hearing the case during a two-day session last month.

Nicola Sturgeon has long said she wants to hold another vote next year, 2023. The Scottish government had argued it could hold a legal vote, but the UK government has disputed that. Now, The UK's highest court, The Supreme Court, has ruled that the Scottish Parliament does not have the power to hold a second independence referendum.

The first Scottish independence referendum in September, 2014, said "no" to change, however, polling has often suggested that the people of Scotland remain split on the issue. Had the Scottish Government been given permission to hold the referendum without the UK Government's consent they would have hoped to hold the vote in October, 2023. You can get more politics news and other story updates straight to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletters here.

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Announcing the Supreme Court's unanimous decision, the court's president Lord Reed said that legislation for a second independence referendum would relate to "reserved matters" and was therefore outside the powers of Holyrood. In his final verdict he said on Wednesday: "The Scottish parliament does not have the power to legislate for a referendum on Scottish independence."

In explaining the decision behind the verdict he said: "A lawfully-held referendum would have important political consequences relation to the Union and the United Kingdom Parliament.

"Its outcome would possess the authority, in a constitution and political culture founded upon democracy, of a democratic expression of the view of the Scottish electorate.

"It would either strengthen or weaken the democratic legitimacy of the Union and of the United Kingdom Parliament's sovereignty over Scotland, depending on which view prevailed, and would either support or undermine the democratic credentials of the independence movement.

"It is therefore clear that the proposed bill has more than a loose or consequential connection with the reserved matters of the Union of Scotland and England, and the sovereignty of the United Kingdom Parliament."

This decision now means that Scottish Government's top law officer, the Lord Advocate, will not be able to clear the Bill for passage through the Scottish Parliament.


Reacting to the news on Twitter Scottish First Minister said: "While disappointed by it I respect ruling of The Supreme Court - it doesn't make law, only interprets it. A law that doesn't allow Scotland to choose our own future without Westminster consent exposes as myth any notion of the UK as a voluntary partnership & makes case for Indy Scottish democracy will not be denied.

"Today’s ruling blocks one route to Scotland’s voice being heard on independence - but in a democracy our voice cannot and will not be silenced."

Responding to the Supreme Court’s ruling, Plaid Cymru Westminster leader, Liz Saville Roberts MP has said the ruling should be a "wake up call" for Wales' First minister.

She said: “This ruling exposes the fundamentally undemocratic nature of Westminster rule. It is time for the UK Government to guarantee the right to self-determination for all the devolved nations.

“The combination of an antidemocratic Conservative government and a nodding dog Labour opposition means our voices will never matter while we’re tied to the Westminster system.

“This should be a wake-up call for the First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford, who views the United Kingdom as a voluntary association of four nations which choose to pool sovereignty. That is clearly not the case under this Conservative Government, nor will it be under a future Labour Government in Westminster.

“Plaid Cymru urge the Labour Welsh Government to strongly defend the right to self-determination today. We must all stand united against Westminster’s denial of democracy.”

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