Scottish Independence referendum: What the Supreme Court ruled and what could happen next

The Supreme Court judgment was published on Wednesday morning  (Alamy/PA)
The Supreme Court judgment was published on Wednesday morning (Alamy/PA)

The Supreme Court has ruled the Scottish Parliament does not have the authority to pass legislation calling for a second independence vote.

The case went to court after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced plans to have a second vote on independence on October 19, 2023.

On Wednesday, November 23 just before 10am, five judges, who spent the previous month reviewing 8,000 pages of legal reasoning, delivered their verdict.

Westminster decides on the future of a second referendum

The court has taken Westminster’s side by saying the UK Government alone has the power to approve or disapprove the holding of another referendum.

Naturally, the First Minister would argue this is an attack on democracy, and she has made it clear that she will use the next general election on the single issue of whether Scotland should become independent.

The first vote on Scottish independence took place in 2014, with 55 per cent of people disagreeing that Scotland should be independent. Successive prime ministers have said the 2014 vote was decisive, and that the SNP should instead focus on improving education and the health service, and other challenges.

The chances of a second referendum

Despite the Scottish government losing, activists will still be campaigning for another referendum. Before the ruling, a Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “There is a substantial majority in the Scottish Parliament in favour of an independence referendum and therefore a clear democratic mandate.”

Scottish National Party MP Angus MacNeil, who was at court for the ruling, indicated on Twitter that the party will now seek to “use elections” to push ahead with the independence campaign.

Sturgeon has been fighting for another referendum since Scotland was “dragged” out of the EU despite voting to remain in 2016. She asserts that her party is mandated to put the independence debate to the people.

However, there is absolutely no certainty the majority of Scots want to be independent and other parties oppose it, including of course the Conservatives as well as Scottish Labour.