Scottish independence referendum: Date, latest polls and legal issues explained

EMBARGOED TO 0001 SUNDAY JUNE 26 File photo dated 31/01/20 of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon speaking during an event in Edinburgh to outline Scottish independence plans. Scottish independence is essential to resolving the cost-of-living crisis impacting thousands of households, Nicola Sturgeon has said. The First Minister will on Tuesday outline her plans for holding a second referendum on Scotland's future in the UK to the Scottish Parliament. Issue date: Sunday June 26, 2022.
Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced the Scottish National Party (SNP) is introducing a bill to hold a second independence referendum next year. (PA)

Nicola Sturgeon has announced she plans to hold a second independence referendum in 2023.

The Scottish first minister, and leader of the SNP, will refer the decision to the UK Supreme Court in order to establish the legality of the legislation behind the vote.

While Sturgeon says there is an “indisputable” mandate for another vote, Boris Johnson has made it clear it is the wrong time to be discussing such a move.

Here are some of the key issues, including when it will be, how it could play out, and how popular independence is:

Read more: How has the case for Scottish independence evolved since 2014?

When is it?

Sturgeon wants the vote to be held on 19 October 2023 with the same question as 2014: 'Should Scotland be an independent country?'

Who called it?

Sturgeon announced the referendum on Tuesday, and said she would be putting the Scottish Independence Referendum Bill to the Scottish parliament.

Holding a second referendum on independence has been a key election pledge for the SNP.

The SNP now hold 45 of the 59 Scottish constituency seats in the House of Commons. In the Scottish parliament, they hold 64 of the 129 seats and are currently in coalition with the Greens.

First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon with the SNP's new councillors outside the V&A Dundee following the local government elections. Picture date: Saturday May 7, 2022.
Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon said she is seeking legal advice on a second independence referendum. (PA)

What happened last time the referendum was held in 2014?

Scots voted to stay in the United Kingdom. 55% of Scottish citizens voted against independence and 45% voted for.

Why now?

Demands from the SNP for a second referendum came immediately after the UK voted to leave the European Union (EU) in 2016.

The SNP argued that membership of the EU was not on the ballot paper in the 2014 referendum, and Scotland overwhelmingly voted to stay within the EU in 2016.

Read more: PM: UK is stronger together with Scotland

The party claims they have justification to call for a second referendum, and say they have a mandate given they govern in Scotland and hold the overwhelming majority of Scottish seats in parliament.

The pandemic delayed the announcement, which is why it has been made now.

REVIEW OF THE YEAR PICS 2014 File photo dated 8/9/2014 of Deputy First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon and actor Alan Cumming outside the Yes Kelvin campaign hub in Glasgow ahead of the Scottish independence referendum vote on September 18.
Scotland voted to remain in the UK in 2014. (PA)

The legal issues

Sturgeon said the SNP wants to have a “legal, constitutional referendum” and is introducing a new Scottish Independence Referendum Bill to Holyrood.

Sturgeon has said it is “matter of principle” that any referendum would be a legal ballot in order “to ascertain the views of the people of Scotland as to whether or not Scotland should be an independent country.”

To achieve “legal clarity” over the Scottish government’s plans the first minister said that Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain, the Scottish government’s most senior law officer, has agreed to refer the matter to the UK Supreme Court.

Read more: Pound slammed by prospect of new Scottish independence vote

The first minister has said if the Scottish parliament is prevented from legally holding a referendum by the courts and Westminster then the party will fight the next UK general election on the single issue of independence.

Boris Johnson's spokesperson has said he will study the details of proposal and wait for the Supreme Court ruling.

Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown speaks at a 'No' campaign rally in Glasgow, Scotland September 17, 2014. The referendum on Scottish independence will take place on September 18, when Scotland will vote whether or not to end the 307-year-old union with the rest of the United Kingdom.     REUTERS/Dylan Martinez (BRITAIN  - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS)
Former prime minister Gordon Brown was a staunch advocate of Scotland remaining within the UK. (PA)

What do the polls say?

When it comes to public opinion among the Scottish public on independence, people remain as divided as before.

According to YouGov, 45% of Scots currently say they’d vote for independence, with 55% against _ the same as the 2014 referendum result.

However, the majority of Scots do not support having a referendum at all in 2023, with 59% against such a move and just 28% supporting it.

In the long-term, though, 42% of Scots do support a referendum in the next five years with 41% against.

Elsewhere, only 16% of Scots think a second independence referendum is a top concern. The economy (54%), health (51%), and education (28%) are seen as more important issues.

Watch: Nicola Sturgeon to lay out 'route map' to new independence vote, even if Westminster says no