Scotland independence poll case reaches UK Supreme Court

The Scottish government wants to create its own legal framework for a second independence vote

Demonstrators outside the Supreme Court in central London where justices heard arguments around a second referendum on independence for Scotland. PA
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A case over whether Scotland’s politicians are able to call a second referendum without permission from London has reached the UK’s Supreme Court.

The UK government argued it was “obvious” that the Scottish Parliament does not have the power to stage an independence vote without Westminster's consent.

Scottish ministers in Holyrood, home of the Scottish Parliament, argue the vote would fall within their devolved powers and they can call a second referendum.

The Scottish government wants to create its own legal framework — for a Scottish independence vote through a bill in Holyrood — arguing its “right to self-determination is a fundamental and inalienable right”.

On Wednesday, the two sides made their final legal arguments in a two-day hearing before five Supreme Court justices in London.

Sir James Eadie KC, for the UK government, told the court the proposed bill is “self-evidently, directly and squarely” about a matter reserved to Westminster, the union between Scotland and England.

“The impacts and effects of Scottish independence would be felt throughout the United Kingdom,” he said. “All parts of the United Kingdom have an interest in that issue, not just Scotland.

“It's obvious why it's reserved to the United Kingdom Parliament. It's of critical importance to the United Kingdom as a whole.

“It's equally obvious why the union could not be a matter over which the Scottish Parliament has competence.

“It would be fundamentally at odds with the purpose of devolution to grant powers to the Scottish Parliament within the union.”

In her final submissions before the hearing adjourned, Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain KC, for the Scottish government, sought to rebut Sir James's points.

“The reference has been brought not because the issue is trivial or one that has been raised on a whim or willy-nilly,” she said. “It is a matter of the utmost constitutional importance.”

As proceedings concluded, the court's president Lord Reed said they would deliver their judgment “as soon as we can”.

He has previously said it would be “some months” before the court could come to a decision.

Updated: October 12, 2022, 9:57 PM