Scotland’s top law officer is being pressed to make clear his opinion on whether Nicola Sturgeon could legally hold a second independence referendum without the agreement of the UK Government.
While the 2014 vote, which saw Scots reject leaving the UK by 55% to 45%, took place with the backing of Westminister, Theresa May has repeatedly made clear she does not support holding a rerun of that ballot at present.
With the First Minister having pledged to set out her thinking on when another referendum might take place in a “matter of weeks”, Scottish Liberal Democrats are demanding Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC states his views on whether it would be competent to hold such a vote without first having obtained a Section 30 order from UK ministers.
Lib Dem MSP Mike Rumbles raised the issue in Holyrood, only for parliamentary business minister Graeme Dey to respond rather than Mr Wolffe, who was also present in the chamber
Mr Dey stressed then that “by long-standing convention, the content of any legal advice received by the Government is, of course, confidential” while Scottish Parliament deputy presiding officer Christine Grahame was also clear it was for ministers to decide who answers questions.
Mr Rumbles has now written to the Lord Advocate insisting that “these questions are of importance to the people of Scotland”.
He asked Mr Wolffe: “As the Scottish Government’s highest legal representative, I would be interested in your thoughts on the following questions:
“What is your position on the competency of the Scottish Government to authorise another referendum without another Section 30 order?
“If the Scottish Government were to consider such a move, what advice would you give them?
“Have the Scottish Government asked for an update on legal advice in relation to conducting a second Scottish independence referendum with or without another Section 30 order?”
Mr Rumbles is also seeking to find out the “legal implications and likely consequences if the Scottish Government chose to hold a so-called ‘wildcat’ referendum without a Section 30 order”.
The Lib Dem MSP said: “The SNP were rightly onboard when it came to pressing the UK Government to release their Brexit legal advice.
“It is most disappointing that they have not been as open with the Scottish public about their own plans.
“The Scottish Government need to tell the public whether they are planning to hold another independence referendum without a section 30 order against the wishes of the Scottish public and whether the Lord Advocate thinks that’s legally sound.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Mr Rumbles’ letter has been received and a response is being considered.”