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Scottish Parliament does not have the power to call independence referendum, Supreme Court decides

23 Nov 2022 3 minute read
Nicola Sturgeon by Kenneth Halley (CC BY-SA 4.0), Adam Price by Daicaregos (CC BY-SA 3.0) Sian Berry and Jonathan Bartley by Kelly Hill (CC BY-SA 4.0) Vince Cable by Keith Edkins (CC BY-SA 4.0)

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.”

‘Not denied’

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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29 Comments
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CJPh
CJPh
7 days ago

We knew this, thanks for the clarity. Now, the incongruity of the extant system is laid bare, in official terms for all to see. Keep knocking at the door and you keep the pressure up. This is actually a win – anything that highlights a lack in sovereignty pushes the day that Scotland and Wales will be free ever closer.

Len Xeno
Len Xeno
7 days ago
Reply to  CJPh

Maybe the SNP’s argument comparing Scotland to Kosovo didn’t work.

CJPh
CJPh
7 days ago
Reply to  Len Xeno

Uh huh, that’s what did it. The law is clear, The Scotland Act unambiguous – there was no chance gaining a right from the imagined penumbras of the current law. Now it’s up to the Scots. And up to us. We have the advantage of not having had a referendum yet (and the precedent of Scotland’s 1st) and our indy movement doesn’t rest on a single political party.

Frank
Frank
7 days ago

So a few members of the judiciary say “no” against the wishes of a huge amount of Scots who want the right to vote! Talk about being unfair! Can you imagine a handful of Scots denying the English what they want?

Len Xeno
Len Xeno
7 days ago
Reply to  Frank

So you know the ethnicity of the Supreme Court then?

NOT Grayham Jones
NOT Grayham Jones
7 days ago
Reply to  Len Xeno

Lord Reed is a Scot- rather ironic is it not.

Rhufawn Jones
Rhufawn Jones
7 days ago

I wonder what happened to Grayham Jones?

Jack
Jack
7 days ago

He is clearly a traitor to his nation.
When independence comes, he should face consequences. Disloyalty cannot be tolerated.

Doctor Trousers
7 days ago
Reply to  Jack

Not really mate. I’ve supported independence most of my life, but mostly because I would like to live in the kind of modern social democratic country where people don’t froth at the mouth about disloyalty to the nation. Leave that kind of bug-eyed flag shagging to the brits eh?

hdavies15
hdavies15
7 days ago

Well said Doc.T, or written. Polarisation of stances over a process which may or may not happen is the sort of stuff that turns people away instead of winning their support. I’ve half suspected that Nicola Strugeon knew all along which way this cookie would crumble. There’s also a slight suspicion in the background that when the chips are down the majority for Indy might not transpire in an IndyRef. By making independence a core issue at the next G.E she is far more likely to get the kind of majority that matters, loads more seats than any other party… Read more »

Frank
Frank
7 days ago
Reply to  Len Xeno

It does not take a genius to work that out, eh?? They would be english or english bought.

Last edited 7 days ago by Frank
Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
7 days ago

Hardly comes as a surprise – no court in london was ever going to allow a vote on self determination for Scotland. But before labour and the tories celebrate too much they should understand that this blatantly partisan decision by the british state’s court will only make the people of scotland even more determined to secure their independence (and the same goes for Wales too).

Last edited 7 days ago by Leigh Richards
Doctor Trousers
7 days ago

They’ve just completely cemented the case for holding the next general election as a defacto independence referendum. The case for being allowed to hold a referendum centred on it being advisory. Had the referendum been held and found a majority in favour of independence, that would not itself have directly led to independence. Even the supreme court confirmed that in their decision. The next stage after the referendum would have been to negotiate the act of leaving the union. The end result of a defacto independence referendum, were a majority to vote in favour of independence, would be the same,… Read more »

Riki
Riki
7 days ago

There you have it ladies and gentlemen, while England claims everyone has a right to self identify and seek to defend themselves against invaders, We at Home (Welsh and Scots) aren’t aloud that same right. If this doesn’t wake people up to the fact that this union isn’t by choice, but by force, nothing ever will. God help us all!

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
7 days ago

How can they (Supreme Court) call this decision just when an English Westminster Parliament hostile to Scottish independence can deny the will of the Scottish people another vote whether they wish to remain part of any Union? And even if Scots vote every Unionist MP out of office in any Westminster General Scottish Parliament Elections will still be denied the right to hold a referendum by the UK Government who are determined to keep their dirty claws around the throats of Scotland, Wales & Northern Ireland. Just look at the Brexit vote. This is as a fine example of the… Read more »

Ernie The Smallholder
Ernie The Smallholder
7 days ago

The UK has learnt nothing in their dealing in Ireland over the last 120 years. It is the democratic right of all peoples to live in their independent nation and to make their own associations with other nations. We knew to secure your own democratic rights for self determination is never easy. The Baltic states and Eastern Europe were relatively lucky – they had a Mikhail Gorbachev in the USSR – a social liberal who believed in open democratic governments. The Vietnam, Angola, Mozambique, Ireland has found it not so easy and had to fight to secure their independence. Now… Read more »

Harry Williamson
Harry Williamson
7 days ago

It is now time for the SNP and Plaid Cymru to withdraw from the farce that is the UK Parliament.

Dr John Ball
Dr John Ball
7 days ago

The mandate.. the former chief executive of the Yes campaign was asked by the BBC this morning about the SNP’s claim to have a mandate for independence.
He produced an astonishing statistic. If the proportion of SNP MPs to Scottish constituencies were calculated as a proportion of the entire House of Commons it would relate 550 MPs!!!
You can’t argue with the numbers!

Len Xeno
Len Xeno
7 days ago
Reply to  Dr John Ball

The House of Commons has nothing to do with it.

They wanted to pass the legislation in Holyrood where they only have a slight majority because of the Scottish Greens.

In terms of vote share – which a de facto referendum would go to – even less.

So you can argue with the numbers because they are hypothetical.

Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
6 days ago
Reply to  Len Xeno

The House of Commons has everything to do with it – in its decision yesterday the court backed the UK govt’s contention that westminster not holyrood can legislate on a second independence referendum ie. MPs have primacy over MSP’s on this matter – yet 45 of Scotlands MPs are from the SNP. So the clear will of scotland’s MPs is that there should be another referendum.

Last edited 6 days ago by Leigh Richards
Arwyn
Arwyn
7 days ago

The Scots have returned majorities in both Holyrood and Westminster of parties that wish to hold an independence referendum. By now denying that wish, they have rung the death knell for the UK. The Supreme Court has ruled that in law it is a matter for the House of Commons to decide, yet it is impossible for Scottish representatives there to pass legislation without the support of MP’s from other Nations, largely from England. Ergo, this is not a voluntary Union and the House of Commons is acting counter-democratically. The Scots are well within their rights to withdraw their MP’s,… Read more »

Last edited 7 days ago by Arwyn
CJPh
CJPh
7 days ago
Reply to  Arwyn

Whilst the Scots keep returning MPs that fundamentally do not believe that the Union should continue, they hold all the cards. If the SNP are canny, they will immediately remove their MPs from attending Westminster. Plaid should withdraw also, sparking our own conversation at home.

SundanceKid
SundanceKid
7 days ago

They can deny the “right” to a referendum held on their terms. What they cannot however do, is deny independence. It astounds me how little all those gloating about the decision know about their own country’s history. Britain also denied the right to self-determination when the United States, India and Ireland asked nicely for it. Ultimately, Britain’s tactic did not work however. All Britain achieved in doing that, was making armed conflict and rebellion inevitable. Unfortunately, Britain (as I predicted it would) would rather risk potential violence or another painful and protracted Brexit than grant another referendum under democratic conditions.… Read more »

Last edited 7 days ago by SundanceKid
Riki
Riki
7 days ago
Reply to  SundanceKid

England! Not Britain. The Britons control over Britain shrank to what the boundaries of Wales is today. Effectively meaning Wales is Britain, as it’s the only nation founded by the Britons.

SundanceKid
SundanceKid
7 days ago
Reply to  Riki

The Britain you are referring to no longer exists today.

Mike Flynn
Mike Flynn
6 days ago

If the majority of Wales wanted independence then Plaid would have the most politicians in the Senedd.

Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
6 days ago
Reply to  Mike Flynn

Hopefully that will now happen after this affront to the people of scotland – not to mention to democracy itself!

Mike Flynn
Mike Flynn
6 days ago
Reply to  Leigh Richards

So why is the Senedd run by Labour after all these years?
I don’t for one minute think a vote on independence would succeed in Wales. Just look at the mess the Welsh NHS and hospitals are in.

SundanceKid
SundanceKid
5 days ago
Reply to  Mike Flynn

The last major piece of research on this revealed that pro-independence supporters were almost evenly split between Plaid and Labour at the last Senedd election. As for an independence referendum, recent polls show support hovering around 33%. That’s a third of all Welsh people. Unlikely that those numbers are going to remain stagnant either given the current cost-of-living crisis and Tory mismanagement. UK Labour may not be much better either given the size of the challenges ahead. As for our health and education systems, they are chronically underfunded as all the funding comes via the Barnett formula (they have always… Read more »

Last edited 5 days ago by SundanceKid

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