The case was brought to the court after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon set out plans to hold a second vote on independence on October 19, 2023.
In her first statement since the Wednesday morning ruling, Ms Sturgeon said: “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.
"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.”
Delivering a speech following the judgement, Ms Sturgeon has vowed to use the next general election to try to win Scottish independence. The First Minister said a special SNP conference will be held in the new year “to discuss and agree the detail of a proposed de-facto referendum”, using the next UK election.
She said: “No party can dictate the basis on which people cast their votes. But a party can be, indeed should be, crystal clear about the purpose for which it is seeking popular support.
“In this case, for the SNP that will be to establish – just as in a referendum – majority support in Scotland for independence so that we can then achieve independence.”
She said the SNP will also “launch and mobilise a major campaign in defence of Scottish democracy”.
Speaking to journalists in Edinburgh, she declared: “We should be in no doubt, as of today democracy is what is at stake. This is no longer about whether Scotland becomes independent, vital though that decision is. It is now more fundamental.
“It is now about whether or not we even have the basic democratic right to choose our own future. Indeed from today the independence movement is as much about democracy as it is about independence.”
She had earlier said the Supreme Court ruling “exposes as myth” that the UK is a voluntary union. In the judgment, Supreme Court president Lord Reed stressed the court was not being asked to express “a view on the political question of whether Scotland should become an independent country”.
Instead he said the task of the judges was “solely to interpret the relevant provisions of the Scotland Act” and decide if the Scottish Government’s proposed referendum Bill related to reserved matters – which are under the control of Westminster and not Holyrood.
The Lord Advocate – Scotland’s most senior law officer – had argued this did not apply because a referendum would not automatically bring about the end of the union.
But Lord Reed said the court did not agree with this interpretation, saying a referendum would have “practical” as well as legal effects.
The Supreme Court president said: “A lawfully held referendum would have important political consequences relating to the union and the United Kingdom Parliament.
“Its outcome would possess the authority, in a constitution and political culture founded upon democracy, of a democratic expression of the view of the Scottish electorate.”
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak welcomed the “clear and definitive” ruling from the Supreme Court
Speaking during Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons, he said: “The people of Scotland want us to be working on fixing the major challenges that we collectively face, whether that’s the economy, supporting the NHS or indeed supporting Ukraine.
“Now is the time for politicians to work together, and that’s what this Government will do.”