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Scottish Government can not hold second independence referendum, Supreme Court rules

On Wednesday 23 November, the UK Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the Scottish Government can not hold a second independence referendum without permission from Westminster. 

This means that ‘indyref2’ can not be called by the Scottish Parliament independently. 

Nicola Sturgeon commented that this “blocks one route” to independence through UK consent. 

Under the 1998 Scotland Act, a set of ‘reserved matters’ which can only be ruled on by Westminster are established. 

These include the issues of “the Union of the Kingdoms of Scotland and England”, and “the Parliament of the United Kingdom.” 

The latter refers to the sovereignty, or supreme power, of the English Parliament over the Scottish Parliament. 

The Supreme Court ruled that the independence referendum would breach these parts of the Scotland Act, and therefore be unlawful. 

The Scottish National Party (SNP) made submissions to the case drawing from international law on the ‘right to self-determination’. 

However, the Court ruled this invalid as Scotland does not fall under the category of being colonised, oppressed or denied meaningful access to political proceedings. 

Nicola Sturgeon commented on Twitter, “While disappointed by it, I respect [the] ruling.”

She continued, “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.”

In a further tweet, she continued, “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.”

In a statement later in the day, Sturgeon declared that the next election would be treated as a “de facto” referendum, meaning that an increase in support for the SNP would signify public support for independence.

In the 2014 referendum, 45 per cent voted for Scottish independence, and 55 per cent against. However, the majority of Scots voted against Brexit in 2016, and many argue that this made another referendum necessary.

Rishi Sunak’s press secretary has stated that he does not support Sturgeon’s plan for a “de facto” referendum. 

They stated that: “I don’t think that is the position of the UK government. The supreme court’s decision today has been very clear.”

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar has commented on the ruling, saying that an independence referendum is not the change people want to see.

Sarwar commented: “We must now focus on the problems facing our country, from rising bills to the crisis in our NHS.”

“There is not a majority in Scotland for a referendum or independence”, but “there is a majority in Scotland and across the UK for change.”

Outside the Court,  SNP MP Philipa Whitford said that this decision puts the issue of independence “back into the political court,” rather than the legal court.

Image “Indyref 2020” by marsupium photography is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.