Supreme Court says Scotland can’t hold new independence referendum

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The UK Supreme Court ruling will have a crucial impact on whether or not next year’s IndyRef2 takes place

Britain’s highest court has ruled Holyrood cannot hold its own Scottish independence referendum without Westminster’s permission.

In a unanimous ruling delivered Wednesday morning, the Supreme Court said such a vote would have “important political ramifications,” though not legally binding.

The decision means a second Scottish independence referendum in October next year is unlikely to take place, as Nicola Sturgeon would like.

In response to the ruling, the First Minister said the court “does not make laws, only interprets them”.

At the sentencing hearing, Supreme Court President Lord Reed said it took the court less time than expected to reach a verdict as the five judges’ decision was “unanimous”.

He also said the court believed it was in the “public interest” to make a decision on the issue so that the law would be clear to politicians on both sides of the independence debate.

The case arose after Scotland’s Lord Advocate, Dorothy Bain KC, referred a prospective bill to hold a vote next year to the court to see whether such a move was within Holyrood’s powers.

Ms Sturgeon had said if the court gave her plan the green light, she would move forward with legislation and hold a referendum on October 19 next year.

“While disappointed by this, I respect the Supreme Court’s ruling,” Ms Sturgeon said after the decision was announced on Wednesday. “[But] it does not make a law, only interprets it.

“A law that doesn’t allow Scotland to choose our own future without Westminster’s consent debunks as myth any notion of Britain as a voluntary partnership and pleads for independence.

“Scottish democracy is not being denied. Today’s verdict blocks a path to hearing Scotland’s voice on independence – but in a democracy our voice cannot and will not be silenced.”

Ms Bain argued in a previous hearing that the outcome of the Scottish Government’s proposed referendum is not legally binding, only advisory, and therefore does not relate directly to the Union itself.

But Lord Reed said the judges rejected that argument.

“A lawfully held referendum would have important political consequences for the Union and the UK Parliament,” he told the court.

“Their result would have the authority in the Constitution, the democracy-based political culture, of a democratic expression of the view of the Scottish electorate.

“It would either strengthen or weaken the democratic legitimacy of a union and the sovereignty of the UK Parliament over Scotland, and it would either support or undermine the democratic credibility of the independence movement.

“It is therefore clear that the proposed Bill has more than a loose or consistent connection with the reserved affairs of the Union of Scotland and England and the sovereignty of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.”

Lord Reed went on to say that the court “unanimously” concluded that “the Scottish Parliament has no power to legislate for a referendum on Scottish independence”.

Ms Sturgeon has previously said she intends to use the 2024 general election as a “de facto” referendum if the court ruling goes against her, championing the sole issue of independence and seeking to win at least 50.1 per cent of the to win votes.

Supreme Court says Scotland can’t hold new independence referendum

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