Scotland cannot hold an independence referendum without London’s agreement

The question, “Should Scotland be an independent country?” », and the date, October 19, 2023, are already known. But can the independentist Scottish Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon organize this new referendum without the London agreement? The British Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Wednesday, and the answer is no.

The Scots have already refused to 55% in 2014 to leave the United Kingdom. But in the eyes of the SNP separatists in power in Edinburgh, Brexit, which 62% of voters in the province opposed, since intervened, is a game-changer. They want Scotland to rejoin the European Union as an independent state. The central government in London strongly opposes any new independence referendum and considers that the vote of 2014 has closed the debate for a generation.

“Right to self-determination”

Anticipating a legal standoff with the government in London, Nicola Sturgeon had taken the lead in seizing the Supreme Court to determine whether the Scottish Parliament has the power to legislate on the question without the agreement of the British government, on an issue on which the Scots are particularly divided according to the polls. The separatist leader believes that she has an “indisputable mandate” to organize such an election, in particular because of the majority the SNP has in the local parliament. She said she was “disappointed” after the Supreme Court decision.

At last month’s hearing at the Supreme Court, lawyers representing the London government argued that the Scottish government cannot decide on its own whether to hold a referendum: Edinburgh must seek permission, as it is a a matter reserved for the central government. Opposite, Scotland’s highest magistrate, Dorothy Bain, argued that “the right to self-determination is a fundamental and inalienable right”.

In a recent blog post, Stephen Tierney, professor of constitutional law at the University of Edinburgh, said the “likeliest” outcome is for Britain’s highest court to rule that a new vote be declared in above the jurisdiction of local government. In such a scenario, Nicola Sturgeon has already warned that she would make the next general election in the UK, due to be held by January 2025, a de facto referendum on the question of independence. During the 2021 local elections, she had promised to organize a legally valid referendum once the page of the Covid-19 pandemic was turned.

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