Scottish independence: Supreme Court to hear referendum case in October

A key court case that could allow the Scottish Parliament to legislate for another independence referendum will be heard in October, the Supreme Court has confirmed.

Scotland’s top law officer, Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain QC, referred a prospective Bill on another vote to the Supreme Court before it was introduced to ascertain if it is within the powers of Holyrood.

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The court confirmed on Tuesday it had refused an application from the Advocate General for Scotland, Lord Stewart QC, which would have required both sides to file “written cases restricted to the question whether the court can or should accept the reference”.

Nicola Sturgeon speaks on Scottish independence. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty ImagesNicola Sturgeon speaks on Scottish independence. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
Nicola Sturgeon speaks on Scottish independence. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
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On Thursday, the Supreme Court confirmed that arguments will be heard on October 11 and 12 – almost exactly a year ahead of the date of a proposed referendum.

However, dates are subject to change depending on court business.

It means the case is due to start the day after Nicola Sturgeon delivers her speech to the SNP conference.

Ms Sturgeon said last month she hoped to hold another vote on Scottish independence on October 19, 2023.

But, if the court ruled Holyrood did not have the required powers for a referendum, the next general election would be treated as a “de-facto” poll.

The SNP, she said, would campaign on the single issue of independence in a bid to secure a mandate from more than 50 per cent of the Scottish people to begin negotiations for separation.

The news comes as the Tory leadership race entered its final stage, with foreign secretary Liz Truss and former chancellor Rishi Sunak vying for No 10.

Both candidates have said they would refuse a section 30 request from the Scottish Government for the necessary powers to be devolved to Holyrood that would allow for another referendum to be held – the same process that led to the first vote in 2014.

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Mr Sunak told the Spectator podcast that another referendum was “not the priority” for people in Scotland, while Ms Truss, when asked if she would agree to a request under any circumstances said: “No”.

“The last referendum in 2014 was described as a once-in-a-generation referendum, we’re now in 2022 – that is not a generation ago.”

Both the UK and Scottish governments have until August 9 to make written submissions.

Pamela Nash, chief executive of pro-UK campaign group Scotland in Union, said: “This vanity project is a world away from what Scotland wants and needs.

“SNP and Green ministers are distracted and obsessed by the cause of independence when they should be focused on tackling NHS waiting lists, improving education standards and addressing the cost-of-living crisis.

“It’s incredible that Nicola Sturgeon thinks this is a good use of anyone’s time when all these challenges are going on.

“Scotland’s future is stronger and more secure as part of the UK.”

Scotland’s constitution secretary Angus Robertson said: “The Supreme Court’s confirmation that a hearing on the Lord Advocate’s reference has been listed for October 11 and 12 is welcome news.

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“The Lord Advocate’s written case has been filed with the Supreme Court and will be published in due course.

“During this period, it would be inappropriate for the Scottish Government to comment any further as the matter is before the court.”



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