The Scottish government cannot now call a vote without the consent of the UK government, the High Court has ruled

The Scottish government cannot hold an independence referendum without the consent of the UK government, the High Court has ruled.

Lord Reid, the Chief Justice, announced the unanimous decision at 10.00 am on Wednesday. He told the court that “Scotland Law gives the Scottish Parliament limited powers.”

The Scottish Government has argued that Holyrood should be able to propose legislation to allow the vote to take place.

However, the UK government argued that this would fall outside Parliament’s legislative powers.


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Under the terms of the Scotland Act 1998, the Scottish Parliament does not have legislative powers in matters relating to the UK Parliament, which includes the union between Scotland and England.

Lord Reed ruled that the power to hold a referendum on the Union was “a matter of fact”.

The Scottish National Party previously said they wanted to set a referendum for October 19, 2023.

The Supreme Court ruling came sooner than expected after it was initially suggested a decision could take months.

Judges at the trial heard from Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain KC (representing the Scottish Government) and Sir James Eadie KC (representing the UK Government) in the case.

Under arrangements set out by the High Court, a Section 30 request is to be sent to the UK government to temporarily transfer the necessary powers from Westminster to Holyrood to allow the referendum to take place under the terms of the 1998 Scotland Act.

The UK government has repeatedly said it has no plans to hold a new independence referendum. The last referendum in 2014 returned a majority for Scotland to remain a member of the UK.