Scottish Parliament does not have the power to call independence referendum, Supreme Court decides
The UK Supreme Court has unanimously decided that the Scottish Government does not have the power to call an independence referendum.
The court concluded that the proposed bill does relate to reserved matters.
The case could set a future precedent for the rest of the UK, including whether the Welsh Parliament could decided to call an independence referendum.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had instructed her government’s Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain to refer the case to the UK’s highest court.
She wanted to hold a referendum on 19 October next year.
Her move came after the UK Government said that it would not allow the Scottish Government to hold a referendum.
The constitution is a reserved matter to Westminster, but the case does raise the question regarding by what means the people of Scotland or other nations in the UK could leave the union if they so wished.
Reacting to the Supreme Court ruling, Nicola Sturgeon added that “Scottish democracy will not be denied”.
She stated: “Today’s ruling blocks one route to Scotland’s voice being heard on independence – but in a democracy our voice cannot and will not be silenced.”
Ms Sturgeon added she would be making a “full statement” in response to the Supreme Court ruling at 11.30am.
Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader Liz Saville Roberts said: “This ruling exposes the fundamentally undemocratic nature of Westminster rule.
“It is time for the UK Government to guarantee the right to self-determination for all the devolved nations.”
Lord Reed said the panel of five Supreme Court justices did not accept arguments made on behalf of the Scottish National Party (SNP), which intervened in the case, based on the “right to self determination” in international law.
The SNP had argued the limitations on the powers of the Scottish Parliament in the Scotland Act should be “restrictively interpreted in a way which is compatible with that right under international law” and cited rulings in the Canadian Supreme Court and the International Court of Justice.
Lord Reed said the court in the Canadian case, which concerned Quebec, held that the right to self-determination under international law only exists in situations “of former colonies, or where a people is oppressed … or where a definable group is denied meaningful access to government”.
He said: “The court found that Quebec did not meet the threshold of a colonial people or an oppressed people, nor could it be suggested that Quebecers were denied meaningful access to government to pursue their political, economic, cultural and social development.
“The same is true of Scotland and the people of Scotland.”
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