Mon, 11 Dec 2023

Britain's Supreme Court has ruled that the Scottish government cannot hold a new independence referendum without approval from Britain's parliament, shutting down promises by the nationalists to hold a second vote next year.

In a unanimous decision, the five judges of Britain's highest court ruled that the UK parliament had the power to approve - or block - a referendum, under the 1998 Scotland Act, which created the Scottish parliament and devolved some powers to the government in London, including matters relating to the Union.

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

UK government against referendum

The British government has repeatedly refused to give Scotland the power to hold a referendum, considering the last one in 2014 settled the question for a generation.

Scots rejected independence by 55 percent, but the pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP) argues that the vote two years later for Britain to leave the European Union changed the situation.

The majority of Scottish voters opposed Brexit, and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has argued that there is now an "indisputable mandate" for a second independence referendum.

Brexit fuels Scottish independence fight as nationalists look to Europe

The Scottish government's most senior law officer had asked the Supreme Court whether Scotland could pass legislation paving the way for an advisory second referendum without the approval of the UK parliament.

Scotland is not Kosovo

At the hearing last month, lawyers for the national government argued that the Scottish government could not decide to hold a referendum on its own, and needed permission based on the constitutional make-up of the four nations of the United Kingdom.

Lawyers for the Scottish government argued that the "right to self-determination is a fundamental and inalienable right", and compared the situation to Quebec or Kosovo.

The Supreme Court rejected the comparisons, saying that international law on self-determination only applied to former colonies, or countries under military occupation, or when a group is denied political and civil rights - non of which applied to Scotland.

De-facto referendum

Sturgeon said she respected the Court's ruling, but that it only strengthened the case for independence.

"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," she tweeted.

If Scotland cannot "choose our own future without Westminster consent", the idea of the UK as a voluntary partnership was exposed as a "myth", she tweeted.

Sturgeon had already promised that if the Supreme Court ruled against Scotland, her party would make the next UK general election - due by January 2025 at the latest - about independence, turning it into a "de-facto" referendum.

(with wires)

Originally published on RFI

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