British supreme court denies Scotland the right to hold an independence referendum

London, UK - Britain's highest court has ruled that the Scottish parliament cannot legislate for a second independence referendum without consent from the London-based UK government.

Scotland has been denied the right to hold a second independence referendum.
Scotland has been denied the right to hold a second independence referendum.  © REUTERS

The case was brought to the court after Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon set out plans to hold a second vote on independence on October 19, 2023.

But Supreme Court president Robert John Reed said on Wednesday: "The Scottish parliament does not have the power to legislate for a referendum on Scottish independence."

It means the Scottish government’s top law officer, the lord advocate, will not be able to clear the bill for passage through the Scottish parliament.

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The Scottish Independence Referendum Bill had been referred to the court with a question on whether Scotland's parliament had the competence to pass this kind of legislation.

The UK government, which is opposed to a second vote on independence, said it is "obvious" that the bill relates to a matter reserved to Westminster.

Scotland previously staged an independence referendum in 2014, which resulted in a 55-45% vote in favor of maintaining the union with England.

Since then, the UK has exited the European Union despite the overwhelming preference of Scottish voters to remain, a factor which many see as one of the main reasons for staging another referendum.

Scotland's first minister says "democracy is at stake"

Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon speaking on Wednesday after the UK supreme court's decision.
Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon speaking on Wednesday after the UK supreme court's decision.  © REUTERS

After the ruling was announced, First Minister Sturgeon vowed to use the next general election to try to win Scottish independence.

A special conference of her Scottish National party (SNP) will be held in the new year "to discuss and agree the detail of a proposed de facto referendum," using the next UK election.

"No party can dictate the basis on which people cast their votes," she said. "But a party can be, indeed should be, crystal clear about the purpose for which it is seeking popular support."

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"In this case, for the SNP that will be to establish – just as in a referendum – majority support in Scotland for independence so that we can then achieve independence."

Sturgeon said the SNP will also "launch and mobilize a major campaign in defense of Scottish democracy."

Speaking to journalists in Edinburgh, she declared: "We should be in no doubt, as of today democracy is what is at stake."

"This is no longer about whether Scotland becomes independent, vital though that decision is. It is now more fundamental. It is now about whether or not we even have the basic democratic right to choose our own future."

"Indeed from today the independence movement is as much about democracy as it is about independence."

Cover photo: REUTERS

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