Good morning. We will find out soon whether the supreme court is going to rule that the Scottish government has the power to hold a second independence referendum. The first one, in 2014, resulted in Scots voting to stay in the UK by 55% to 45%, which was a lot closer than many people would have predicted in the months and years before the vote. It was the closest the United Kingdom has come to breaking up since Ireland left 100 years ago. Understandably there is a lot of interest in whether Scotland will be allowed to try again.
As the SNP MP Angus MacNeil points out, there are three possible outcomes today.
Three broad outcomes.
1) Yes, 1998 Scotland Act enables an independence referendum - then proceed to 19th Oct 2023.
2) No referendum under the 1998 Act from Holyrood - use elections
3) Away and legislate and perhaps be taken back to Supreme Court to be then quashed. pic.twitter.com/s2bWXusIWh— Angus B MacNeil MP🇺🇦 (@AngusMacNeilSNP) November 23, 2022
According to the BBC’s Nick Eardley, the Scottish government privately thinks its chances of winning are just 20%.
V important ruling on #indyref2 coming at Supreme Court at 0945.
Nobody knows for sure what judges will decide, but both sides agree UK Govt win *appears* more likely.
Feeling in Scottish Govt is they have a 1/5 chance of securing a referendum today.https://t.co/DKfg6nnuUp https://t.co/H1k8oKqyGh— Nick Eardley (@nickeardleybbc) November 23, 2022
But that seems optimistic, for at least two reasons. First, to win, the Scottish government has to clear two legal hurdles. The UK government argued that the supreme court should not even be hearing the case because the Scottish parliament has not actually passed its referendum bill yet. The Scottish government has to persuade the supreme court that the issue is justiciable in the first place, before persuading it also that Scotland has the right to hold the referendum.
Second, when the UK parliament passed the Scotland Act, the UK government was very clear that the legislation was not intended to give the Scottish parliament control over constitutional matters. The Scottish government is trying to get round this by arguing that a referendum would only be “advisory” (because there would have to be separate legislation to enact independence). This may be confusing to people who have heard nationalists argue for years that a referendum would settle the matter, and it is not an argument that the supreme court judges seemed to find compelling when they heard the case in October.
At the time Lord Reed, president of the supreme court, said it would take them “some months” to reach a decision. The fact that they are delivering their judgment six weeks later suggests that they have not found it hard to take a side, and – again – that might imply they are not minded to come up with a ruling that would upend the UK constitution.
Still, you never know.
Here is my colleague Libby Brooks preview story.
Related: Supreme court to rule on second Scottish independence referendum
And here is her Q&A on the case.
Related: What is the supreme court’s Scottish independence ruling about?
Here is the agenda for the day.
9.45am: The supreme court delivers its judgment in the case about whether the Scottish government is entitled to hold an independence referendum.
9.45am: Suella Braverman, the home secretary, gives evidence to the Commons home affairs committee.
12pm: Rishi Sunak faces Keir Starmer at PMQs.
3pm: Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor, gives evidence to the Commons Treasury committee about the autumn statement.
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