w/c 10th October 2022
- Indyref2 – essential facts ahead of the Supreme Court hearing
- 88th Annual SNP Conference winds down
- SNP committed to seek Indyref2
- British Government refuses
- Supreme Court to decide whether Scottish government can hold referendum without consent from Westminster
- UK Government lawyers claim it would not be an “abstract opinion poll” but a clear attempt to terminate the Union
Just as the 88th annual SNP Conference winds down Britain’s Supreme Court has quills at the ready to hear a legal case to establish whether the Scottish government can hold an independence referendum without consent from Westminster. Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon is seeking to hold a new independence referendum. Liz Truss – re-affirming Boris Johnson’s position – has declined to allow one.
11th & 12th October have been set as dates for the hearing at The Supreme Court after Nicola Sturgeon instructed Scotland’s top law officer to make a referral on whether a referendum would be legal without permission from the British government. The Supreme Court is the final court of appeal in the UK for civil cases, and for criminal cases from England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The case will be heard almost exactly one year before Sturgeon aims to hold the vote. Scotland’s semi-autonomous government has published a bill outlining plans to hold the secession vote on 19th October 2023. Scotland has a population of around 5.5 million. On 18th September 2014 55% of voters rejected independence.
During the Brexit referendum, however, while 51.9% of the total votes cast in the UK were in favour of leaving the European Union, 62% of those who voted in Scotland voted to remain. Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party (SNP) argues that “Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will” means the question must be put to a second vote. Following the pro-independence parties’ majority win in the Scottish parliament elections last year Nicola Sturgeon maintains the Scottish government has a mandate to hold a new independence vote. The British government has refused consent for a new referendum arguing that the “once in a generation” matter was settled in 2014. Dorothy Bain, the Lord Advocate – Nicola Sturgeon’s top law officer – has asked the Supreme Court to rule on whether the Scottish Parliament could hold a referendum without Westminster’s permission.
She has submitted that it could be argued an “advisory” poll is within devolved powers because it would not, in itself, break up the UK. UK Government lawyers claim that a new vote would not be an “abstract opinion poll” but a clear attempt to terminate the Union. In a legal submission to the Supreme Court, Lord Stewart of Dirleton, the Advocate General for Scotland, says that a plebiscite on Scottish independence would “plainly” relate to the union between England and Scotland, a reserved matter for which Holyrood does not have the power to legislate.
UK Government lawyers argue that it cannot “credibly be suggested that the outcome of the referendum will be ‘advisory’ in the sense of being treated as a matter of academic interest only….A referendum is not, and is not designed to be, an exercise in mere abstract opinion polling at considerable public expense. Were the outcome to favour independence, it would be used – and no doubt used by the SNP as the central plank – to seek to build momentum towards achieving that end: the termination of the Union and the secession of Scotland. It is in precisely that hope that the Draft Bill is being proposed.”
The SNP claims it would be “constitutionally improper” to prevent it from implementing its manifesto commitment to hold a new vote. The Supreme Court hearing is scheduled to take place on 11th & 12th October with a decision made within the next few months….
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