UK Supreme Court blocks second Scottish independence vote

The UK Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that the Scottish Parliament does not have the power to call a second independence referendum, quashing the Scottish National Party’s plan to force one next year.

Scotland voted against secession from the United Kingdom in a referendum in 2014. The Scottish National Party, which has a majority in the Scottish Parliament, has since pushed for another vote, arguing that Britain’s departure from the European Union had changed the economic landscape and that Scotland would be better off prospering on its own. Polls over the past year have shown Scots roughly evenly split on whether to end the union with Britain.

“The Scottish Parliament has no power to legislate for a referendum on Scottish independence,” said Robert Reid, chief justice. SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon responded to the ruling by saying she respected the court’s decision but would continue to push for independence.

On Wednesday, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called the decision “final” and said the focus should be on solving Britain’s economic challenges and “delivering for the people of Scotland”. Ms Sturgeon said on Wednesday that the next UK general election, expected in 2024, would be a de facto referendum on Scottish independence, arguing that if a majority of Scottish voters supported her party during this vote, then this will prove that Scotland should leave Britain. .

“Let’s be blunt: A so-called partnership in which one partner is denied the right to choose a different future – or even to ask himself the question – cannot in any way be described as voluntary or even as a partnership,” said Ms. The sturgeon. “So this decision confirms that the idea of ​​the UK as a voluntary partnership of nations is no longer, if ever, a reality.”

The UK government has urged politicians in Scotland to step up and push other issues such as the cost of living crisis arising from high inflation and weak economic growth.

Scotland was an independent country with its own parliament for centuries before it was united with England in 1707. Scotland gained a new parliament in 1998 and has powers in areas such as health and education. But most national matters, such as overall economic policy and defence, are governed by the British Parliament in London.

The Scottish Parliament has no power to legislate on matters relating to the 315-year-old union between the rest of Britain and Scotland. Since the last referendum, the UK government has repeatedly refused to grant a so-called ‘Section 30’ decree, which would have given the Scottish Parliament powers to hold such a vote. This has left the SNP trying to bait Mr Sunak into calling a referendum by claiming the proposal has popular support among Scots.

To force matters, the Scottish Government filed a legal appeal saying it had the power to call a referendum, arguing that any vote would be purely advisory and therefore would not have a direct effect on the status of the union between England and Scotland. The Supreme Court rejected this argument, but held that it could not express a view on the political question of whether Scotland should become independent.

A big question is how the next UK general election will play out, says John Curtice, professor of politics at the University of Strathclyde in Scotland. Labor is well ahead of the ruling Conservative Party in the polls, but it is unclear whether it will win an outright majority. That could leave the SNP as kingpin, giving it leverage to demand another referendum as a price for supporting Labour. Labor has repeatedly denied it would form a coalition with the SNP or call such a referendum.

Another issue is Brexit. During the 2014 Scottish referendum, people’s views on Europe were not fully aligned with whether they supported the union. After Brexit there is a strong correlation, with 65% of anti-Brexit Scots supporting separation from Britain.

The question for the government is “Do you really think it’s an effective political strategy to simply deny you can have a vote on this issue?”, Mr Curtice said. “You have to move the dial, too: The question is, what will unionists do to move the dial north of the border?”

Much of that depends on whether the Conservative government can show that Brexit is a success, he added.

Write to Max Colchester at [email protected]

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