Scottish independence referendum: What to expect as Supreme Court consider indyref2

scottish independence referendum what to expect as supreme court consider indyref2

The Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether Holyrood is allowed to go ahead with a second Scottish independence referendum without the consent of Westminster.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has long been campaigning to have a second vote and wants to hold it on 19 October, 2023.

But the UK Government is vehemently opposed to this and has argued that the 2014 referendum was a “once in a generation” vote.

Successive prime ministers have also insisted that “now is not the time” for a referendum. But Ms Sturgeon has said she is “hopeful and optimistic” of the outcome.

The UK’s highest court will today hear arguments on whether the Scottish Parliament can unilaterally declare a second referendum – i takes a look at how the case is likely to unfold and what it could mean.

What will happen at the Supreme Court?

The two-day hearing at the Supreme Court in London will begin on Tuesday (today).

The Scottish and UK governments will make their cases before a panel of five judges.

The case concerns proposed legislation at the Scottish Parliament called the Scottish Independence Referendum Bill.

Judges have been asked to decide whether the Bill relates to “reserved matters” – meaning it is outside of Holyrood’s legislative competence as a devolved power.

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Ms Sturgeon asked the Lord Advocate, Scotland’s chief law officer, to refer the Bill to the Supreme Court when she published the legislation in June.

This was in order to head off any legal challenge from her opponents, with the First Minister saying she wanted an “indisputably lawful” referendum to take place.

The five judges listed are Lord Reed, Lord Lloyd-Jones, Lord Sales, Lord Stephens and Lady Rose.

What will the UK Government argue?

The UK Government, represented in the court by the Advocate General for Scotland, Lord Keith Stewart KC, is opposed to a second referendum.

In August, Mr Stewart asked the Supreme Court to “decline to determine the reference”, saying it was beyond the court’s jurisdiction.

He will argue the constitution is reserved to Westminster and it is therefore a matter beyond the powers of the Scottish Parliament.

The Advocate General has also argued that even if the court did decide it had jurisdiction over the matter, Holyrood would be unable to hold a lawful referendum.

A UK government spokesperson said: “People across Scotland want both their governments to be working together, focusing on the issues that matter to them, not talking about another independence referendum.

“On the question of legislative competence, the UK government’s clear view remains that a bill legislating for a referendum on independence would be outside the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament.”

What will the Scottish Government argue?

Lawyers for the Scottish Government will argue that its draft legislation for a second referendum should be allowed to proceed.

The Scottish government’s chief legal adviser – the Lord Advocate, Dorothy Bain KC – will reiterate Ms Sturgeon’s argument that the referendum would be “consultative, not self-executing” – explaining that the vote will not in and of itself make Scotland independent.

The Lord Advocate will further argue that “the legal consequences of the bill are, relevantly, nil”.

The SNP will put forward a written submission to the court, which will stress the right to self determination.

When will the outcome be issued?

The verdict of the five judges is set to be issued within weeks or months of the conclusion of the hearing on Wednesday – though the crucial judgement is expected to be published before the end of the year.

Will Nicola Sturgeon respect the judgement?

The Scottish First Minister has said there will be no Scottish independence next year if the Supreme Court rules that Holyrood does not have the power to hold one.

Ms Sturgeon 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.”

She added that if the Scottish Government lost, she would proceed with her plan of using the 2024 general election as a “de facto” referendum.


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