The British Supreme Court ruled unsurprisingly on Wednesday November 23 that Scotland could not organize a new independence referendum without the London agreement, dampening the hopes of the Scottish government, which wanted to hold such a consultation next year. The Scottish Prime Minister, she replied that the next British general election will be a “de facto referendum”.
“We must and we will find other democratic, legal and constitutional means for the people of Scotland to express their will. From my point of view, this can only be an election”said independence minister Nicola Sturgeon at a press conference in Edinburgh.
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A few minutes earlier, the British Supreme Court had ruled that an independence referendum could not be held without London’s agreement. “The Court unanimously concluded that the proposed law [pour un référendum, NDLR] falls under the reserved questions » to central power in London, said Chief Justice Robert Reed. Fact, “the Scottish Parliament does not have the power to legislate for an independence referendum”.
Nicola Sturgeon said to himself “disappointed” by the judgment of the Court, finding that a “law which does not allow Scotland to choose its own future without agreement from Westminster shows that any notion of voluntary partnership with the United Kingdom is a myth”.
Brexit was a game-changer, say separatists
The Scots have already refused to 55% in 2014 to leave the United Kingdom. But in the eyes of the SNP separatists in power in Edinburgh, the Brexit that has since taken place, which 62% of voters in the province opposed, is a game-changer. They want Scotland to rejoin the European Union as an independent state.
But the central government in London strongly opposes any further independence referendums and sees the 2014 vote as closing the debate for a generation.
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Anticipating a legal tussle with London, Nicola Sturgeon had taken the lead in seizing the Supreme Court to position itself on the question which divides the Scots. The Court considered that such a referendum – even consultative – would have direct consequences on the union of the United Kingdom, an area ” Reserve “ to the central government in London, which must therefore give its consent before such a vote is held.
Nicola Sturgeon, by Alex Taylor: “She looks the Scots in the eye”
After the decision, UK Minister for Scotland Alister Jack said Edinburgh must now “concentrate […] on the issues that matter most” for Scots in the midst of a UK cost of living crisis.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, for his part, considered that the Supreme Court had rendered a “clear and final judgment”. He called on politicians to ” work together “.
“Fundamental and inalienable right”
Nicola Sturgeon had already warned that if she failed in court, she would make the next general election in the UK, due to be held by January 2025, a de facto referendum on the question of independence.
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Opposed to independence, Scottish Labor leader Anas Sarwar has called for ” rid “ of this Conservative government ” rotten “. “Let’s show that we can make the UK work for all parts of the country”he launched on the BBC.
During the 2021 local elections, Nicola Sturgeon had promised to organize a legally valid referendum once the page of the Covid-19 pandemic was turned. She had already revealed the question, “Should Scotland be an independent country? »and even the date, October 19, 2023, on which it intended to organize this new consultation.
At the hearing last month, lawyers representing the London government said the Scottish government could not decide on its own whether to hold a referendum: Edinburgh must seek permission, as it is a reserved issue to the central government.
Opposite, the highest Scottish magistrate, Dorothy Bain, had argued that “the right to self-determination is a fundamental and inalienable right”. But the Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected such arguments, with Robert Reed saying that international law on self-determination only applies to former colonies or populations oppressed by military occupation, or when a group has no no access to certain rights.
“I would have preferred another decision but it gives a clear answer and I think it is welcome”told AFP at the end of the judgment Philippa Whitford, independentist deputy. “I think that while many supporters of the union may be rejoicing, they also need to realize that it raises questions about the nature of the UK. We are constantly told that this is a voluntary union and so they need to reflect on the democratic right of Scots to choose their own future. »