The UK’s highest court has ruled against a plan to vote for Scottish independence

LONDON: Britain’s Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that Scotland does not have the power to hold a new referendum on independence without the consent of the British government. The decision is a setback for the Scottish government’s campaign to secede from the United Kingdom.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she would respect the decision but would continue to fight for independence, saying Scotland’s “democratic right to choose our own future” was at stake.
The high court ruled that the Scottish Parliament “does not have the power to legislate for a referendum. Scottish independence.”
Chief Justice Robert Reid said five judges were unanimous in the ruling, six weeks after lawyers for the pro-independence Scottish administration and the Conservative UK government argued their case at a hearing in London.
Independence supporters plan to rally outside the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh and elsewhere throughout the day.
The semi-autonomous Scottish government will next October ask ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’ wants to hold a referendum with the question.
The UK government in London has refused to certify the vote, saying the question was decided in a 2014 referendum in which Scottish voters rejected independence by a margin of 55% to 45%.
The pro-independence government in Edinburgh wants to review the decision, but claims Britain’s exit from the European Union – opposed by a majority of Scottish voters – has fundamentally changed the political and economic landscape.
Sturgeon claims she has a democratic mandate from the people of Scotland to hold a new secession vote because she has a majority in the Scottish Parliament that supports independence.
During a High Court hearing last month, the Scottish government’s chief legal officer, Dorothy Bain, said the majority of Scottish lawmakers were elected on the basis of a commitment to hold a new independence referendum. He also said the referendum would be advisory rather than legally binding – although a “yes” vote would create a strong push for Scotland’s breakup.
James Eadie, a lawyer for the UK government, argued that the power to hold a referendum rests with the UK Parliament in London because “it is of critical importance, not just for Scotland, but for the UK as a whole”.
Supreme Court justices agreed. They said that “a bill to hold an independence referendum – ending the UK Parliament’s sovereignty over Scotland – has more than a loose or consequential connection with that Parliament’s sovereignty”.
Reed emphasized that the court “has not been asked, and cannot be asked, to comment on the political question of whether Scotland is an independent country.”
The British government has urged politicians in Scotland and London to focus and stay focused on pressing issues such as the struggling economy and the cost of living crisis.
Scottish Secretary of State Alistair Jack said: “People in Scotland want both governments to focus their attention and resources on the issues that matter most to them.”
But Sturgeon said the decision was “a tough pill to swallow for any pro-independence – and certainly pro-democracy”.
“A so-called partnership in which one partner is deprived of the right to choose another future … cannot in any way be described as voluntary or partnership at all,” he said. He ruled out the holding of an unauthorized referendum and “the path we take to achieve independence must be legal and democratic.”
Sturgeon said the next UK national election in two years would be a de facto plebiscite to end Scotland’s three-century union with England. He said the ruling Scottish National Party would hold a special conference next year to work out the details of the plan.
Polls show that Scots are evenly split on independence – and also that a majority of voters do not want another referendum anytime soon.
Scotland and England have been united politically since 1707. Scotland has had its own parliament and government since 1999 and makes its own policy on public health, education and other matters. The UK government in London oversees matters such as defense and financial policy.