Scottish independence movement dealt blow by Supreme Court

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon speaks at a press conference to launch a second independence paper at Bute House on July 14, 2022 in Edinburgh, Scotland.

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LONDON — The U.K.’s Supreme Court on Wednesday told the Scottish government it cannot hold a fresh independence referendum without the U.K. government’s consent.

Supreme Court President Lord Reed said in broadcast remarks that the Scottish Parliament did not have the power to legislate on matters reserved to the U.K. Parliament, including the union.

A referendum was held in in September 2014 in which Scotland voted to remain in the U.K. by 55% to 45%.

The Scottish National Party, which backs independence, became a major political force when it won a majority in the Scottish Parliament in the 2011 election.

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, who has served as Scotland’s first minister since November 2014, has said her party was elected on a “clear promise to give the people of Scotland the choice of independence.”

Sturgeon said in tweets following the decision: “While disappointed by it I respect ruling of @UKSupremeCourt – it doesn’t make law, only interprets it. A law that doesn’t allow Scotland to choose our own future without Westminster consent exposes as myth any notion of the UK as a voluntary partnership & makes case for Indy [independence].”

“Scottish democracy will not be denied. Today’s ruling blocks one route to Scotland’s voice being heard on independence – but in a democracy our voice cannot and will not be silenced.”

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In an August tweet during a campaign event in Scotland, U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak wrote: “There is nothing more Conservative than our precious Union, and everything great that we have achieved we have done so as one family.”

Sturgeon in 2017 gained approval from the Scottish Parliament to hold another referendum after the terms of any Brexit deal became clear, but this was blocked by the then-U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May.

The SNP currently holds a majority of 64 out of 129 seats in the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, with the remaining seats split between the Scottish Conservative & Unionist, Labour, Green and Liberal Democrat parties; and holds 44 of the 650 seats at the U.K. parliament in Westminster.

Since the Brexit vote in 2016, one of its core arguments has been that Scotland voted to remain in the European Union by 62% to 38%. Sturgeon has said her party would immediately seek to re-join the bloc with Scotland as an independent country, though questions remain over issues such as trade and freedom of movement, and whether joining the euro would be a criteria of membership.

Last month, the party published an economic prospectus arguing Scotland’s economy would be “stronger and fairer” after independence.

Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson opposed a second independence referendum.

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