Britain’s Supreme Court said on Thursday it would hold hearings in October on whether Scotland could call an independence referendum without the consent of the British government.
Scottish Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said she intends to hold a new vote for independence on October 19, 2023.
But Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government in London says it won’t allow a vote because the Scots rejected independence in a 2014 referendum that was billed as “a once-in-a-generation vote.”
A vote taken without the approval of the London government will have no legal effect.
The Scottish government of Sturgeon has asked the Supreme Court to decide whether it has the right to legislate for a consultative referendum even if the UK government does not give the go-ahead.
On Thursday, the court said it would hear arguments from both sides on October 11 and 12.
Sturgeon and her Scottish National Party argue that Britain’s exit from the European Union and the coronavirus pandemic have upended politics and the economy and it’s time to return to the question of independence.
British voters narrowly approved of Brexit in a 2016 referendum, but the Scots voted strongly to stay in the EU.
Like Wales and Northern Ireland, Scotland has its own parliament and government and pursues its own health, education and other policies. But the general British government in London controls other key areas such as defense and fiscal policy.
Even if the referendum goes through as proposed, a majority vote alone would not make Scotland independent from the rest of the UK. Sturgeon said that “in order for Scotland to become independent after voting yes, the British and Scottish Parliaments must pass legislation”.
“Sturgeon’s Mandate to Vote for Independence”
Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party won a landslide victory in the May 2021 parliamentary elections, gaining just one seat short of an absolute majority, an outstanding result for a party in power since 2007.
They now rule in a pro-independence coalition with the Scottish Greens, who are in government for the first time.
Sturgeon says her party’s continued success — they also won the 2022 local council elections in Scotland with the largest share of the vote and more seats — gives her a mandate for a new independence referendum.
The Conservative government in London, Sturgeon said, “pulled” Scotland out of the EU “against our will” and created the worst cost-of-living crisis in the G7, with the second-worst economic growth in the G20 – excluding Russia.
For generations, Scotland has paid the price of not being independent, the First Minister recently told lawmakers in Edinburgh.
“The time has come, at this critical moment in history, to discuss and decide the future of our country,” she said.
“Now is the time for independence.”