There will be no Scottish independence referendum next year if the Supreme Court rules that Holyrood does not have the power to hold one, Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed.
The First Minister told the SNP conference in Aberdeen that she would respect the judgment of the UK’s highest court, stressing: “We believe in the rule of law.”
A two-day hearing at the court in London is due to begin on Tuesday, with lawyers for the Scottish Government arguing that its draft legislation for a vote should be allowed to proceed.
However, lawyers for the UK Government will argue that the proposal relates to constitutional matters reserved to Westminster and would not therefore be lawful.
The crucial judgment from the court is likely to be published before the end of the year, and potentially within six to eight weeks of the hearing taking place.
Ms Sturgeon told supporters that if the Scottish Government lost, she would proceed with her plan of using the 2024 general election as a “de facto” referendum.
“If the court decides in the way we hope it does, on 19 October next year there will be an independence referendum,” she said.
“And if the court doesn’t decide that way? First, and obviously, we will respect that judgment. We believe in the rule of law.
“And as a party – and a movement – we will, of course, reflect. But fundamentally, it will leave us with a very simple choice.
“Put our case for independence to the people in an election, or give up on Scottish democracy.”
Ms Sturgeon also confirmed that the Scottish Government would publish a paper on the economics of independence next Monday.
She said one of its “central proposals” would be the creation of an investment fund, using remaining North Sea oil revenues and borrowing powers.
This Building a New Scotland Fund could deliver up to £20bn of investment in the first decade after independence, Ms Sturgeon said.
She added that the project could support a “massive programme to decarbonise housing, cut fuel bills and reduce fuel poverty”, as well as finance housebuilding.
In her speech, Ms Sturgeon also attacked the Labour Party for being “just as committed to Brexit as the Tories” despite 62 per cent of Scots voting against it in 2016.
She accused Sir Keir Starmer of “cowering away” from arguing that the UK’s exit from the EU could be reversed purely to win power.
“They abandon all principle for fear of upsetting the apple cart. Bluntly, they are willing to chuck Scotland under Boris Johnson’s Brexit bus to get the keys to Downing Street,” she said.