Nicola Sturgeon seeks supreme court ruling on Scottish independence vote

nicola sturgeon seeks supreme court ruling on scottish independence vote
© Provided by The Guardian Photograph: Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images

Nicola Sturgeon has asked the supreme court to rule on whether the Scottish government can hold a non-binding referendum on independence, without having Boris Johnson’s permission to stage one.

The first minister said on Tuesday the lord advocate, Dorothy Bain QC, has written to the supreme court in London asking it to hold a hearing on whether the Scottish government has the legal powers to hold that vote.

She told MSPs her government wanted to stage a second independence referendum on 19 October 2023, using the same question put to voters in 2014: “Should Scotland be an independent country.”

In a statement at Holyrood, Sturgeon said that if the court ruled that that would not be a lawful use of her government’s resources or breached its constitutional powers, the Scottish National party would make independence its only policy at the next UK general election.

Many constitutional lawyers believe the court will rule it would be unlawful for Holyrood and the Scottish government to stage a referendum of this sort without Westminster giving it the powers to do so under section 30 of the Scotland Act.

Sturgeon said she wanted to pre-empt inevitable legal battles with the opponents of independence or with the UK government over this question, and had written to the prime minister setting out her plans.

The lord advocate had meanwhile notified the UK government’s law officers of her request to the supreme court, the first minister added. Sturgeon said her preferred date for staging the referendum was set out in a new referendum bill, also released on Tuesday.


In her letter to Johnson, Sturgeon said: “It is a matter of deep regret to me that this action is necessary. In a voluntary union of nations where the people of one nation have voted in elections to give a mandate for a referendum, it is, in my view, unacceptable democratically that the route to a referendum has to be via the courts rather than by co-operation between the UK and Scottish governments.

“[You] and I will never agree on the merits of independence for Scotland. But I would expect any democrat to agree that it is unacceptable for the people of Scotland to be blocked from making that choice given the clear majority for a referendum in the Scottish parliament.”

The first independence referendum in September 2014 was held after the then prime minister, David Cameron, agreed to temporarily give Holyrood those powers after signing an agreement with the then first minister, Alex Salmond.

Sturgeon has repeatedly said until now her government believed another section 30 order would be the “gold standard” approach to holding a fresh referendum, but Boris Johnson confirmed on Tuesday he would not agree to one.

Speaking to reporters on the final day of a G7 summit in Germany, Johnson said: “We think the number one priority for the country is the economic pressures, the spikes in the cost of energy, our plan for a stronger economy certainly means that we think that we’re stronger working together, but we have good relations with the Scottish government and we’ll see what she has to say.”

Douglas Ross, the Scottish Tory leader, accused the first minister of again fomenting division at a time of economic crisis. “Nicola Sturgeon is at it again,” he told MSPs. “Her eye is off the ball once more.

“The real priorities of people across Scotland are on the backburner. Instead, the first minister is putting her plans to divide Scotland front and centre.

“Nicola Sturgeon has shown again today that the SNP’s selfish obsession with another divisive referendum is always their top priority. She will use government time and resources to further her plan to break up the country, just when we need to be pulling together and working as one.”

Anas Sarwar, the Scottish Labour leader, said Sturgeon had both broken her promise to voters in the Holyrood elections last year to prioritise Scotland’s recovery from the Covid crisis and had revealed her true intentions, to use independence as a pretext to make the SNP relevant at the next UK general election.

“The pandemic Nicola that said she wanted pull us through is gone, and the partisan Nicola Sturgeon, that wants to divide our country, is back – pursuing a referendum that two-thirds of Scots don’t want now,” Sarwar said.

“Worse still, isn’t she using the thank you she was given, and the promise she made to lead us through the recovery, to instead pit Scot against Scot and focus on her priority, her obsession, her purpose.”

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White Water Rafting or KayakingMount Fuji Overnight Climb ItinerarySip & Gogh Paint Studio: Unleash Your Inner Van Gogh | LakwatseroBatanes ItineraryHow to Get to Quitinday HillsAbout Callao CaveDiscover LakawonBiking to Taal: A Fun Ride to Batangas’ Heritage TownAntique Blooming: The Rafflesia of San RemigioMalasimbo Lights and Dance FestivalBacolod ItineraryPoon HillAttractions in Mirador Heritage and Eco ParkHulhumale Public BeachRomblon Island: Bonbon Beach, Tiamban Beach & MoreAdventure in Sabah: White Water Rafting in Padas River | LakwatseroHow to Get to Hinakpan Mystical HillsWelcome to Lake SebuAbout CasiguranAbout BuscalanHow to Go to Kalanggaman IslandFaro de Cabo Bojeador (Cape Bojeador Lighthouse)Backpacking Maldives: Budget Itinerary, Expenses & TipsHow to Get ThereOffbeat Bohol Itinerary: 3D/2N of AdventuresHow to Get to Tawi-TawiAlona BeachPangilatan Falls: The Forgotten Gem of Tapaz, CapizWorld War I: SMS Cormoran II3D/2N Taiwan Itinerary: Taipei – Yehliu – ShiffenLaos for Backpackers: Getting There on a BudgetBasic RequirementsHow to Get to Antong FallsCathedral CaveHow to Go to Gubat, SorsogonAbout SadangaHow to Get to Bugui Point LighthouseHow to Get to Cabra Island LighthouseCebu Itinerary: Three-Day Adventures in the SouthAbout AndaLuna: A Day in the Show Window of Apayao | LakwatseroMargues Blue LagoonFinding Palaui’s Cape Engaño Lighthouse | LakwatseroHow to Get to Mantayupan Falls of Barili, CebuHow to Get to MaligcongLinapacan Islands: Between Paradise | LakwatseroKLIA to KLCCHow to Get to JomaligBanaug ShoalEspadang Bato – Payaran Falls Day Hike Itinerary10 Remarkable Philippine Destinations for Solo TravelMiagao Church: A UNESCO World Heritage Site in IloiloAbout Carbin ReefAbout Parola IslandCabra WreckageCobra Falls: Ozamiz City’s Best Kept SecretBasco: The Chapel on the Hill of Tukon | LakwatseroBack in Kathmandu’s Lovely Mess | LakwatseroHimalayan Adventure: Kathmandu to Pokhara Overland | LakwatseroItineraryChinatown Vancouver (Stop #23)Situbo Falls: Tampilisan's Awesome SurpriseHow to Get to Inambakan FallsTuasan Falls: Another Camiguin’s Charmer | LakwatseroHow to Get to Lake SebuMarinduque Loop: Biking in the Heart of the Philippines1. 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