The Supreme Court is to hear arguments on whether a second independence referendum could be held without Westminster’s backing.
Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain QC, the Scottish Government’s most senior legal adviser, referred the matter to the court earlier this month in order to determine if the vote, which First Minister Nicola Sturgeon intends to hold on October 19 2023, would be in Holyrood’s legislative competence.
In her filing, Ms Bain posed the question: “Does the provision of the proposed Scottish Independence Referendum Bill that provides that the question to be asked in a referendum would be ‘should Scotland be an independent country?’ relate to reserved matters?”
The UK Government called for the case to be thrown out before it proceeded to a formal hearing, suggesting that the referral was “premature”.
The Supreme Court has today published an update on the reference by the Lord Advocate under paragraph 34 of Schedule 6 to the Scotland Act 1998 under the Supreme Court’s devolution jurisdiction. Read it on our website: https://t.co/TSWOOy1sSj
— UK Supreme Court (@UKSupremeCourt) July 19, 2022
However, the Supreme Court confirmed on Tuesday that it had refused an application from 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”.
The court said there were two issues to consider, whether it can or should accept the reference, and if so, how it should answer the question put forward by the Lord Advocate.
Arguments on both issues should be heard at a single hearing as a result, the court said, citing “the interests of justice and the efficient disposal of the proceedings”.
Both parties have until August 9 to make written submissions, with confirmation yet to be given on when the case will be heard.
A UK Government spokesman said: “We appreciate the Supreme Court dealing with our application quickly.
“We will proceed to prepare our written case on the preliminary points we have noted, and on the substantive issue, to the timetable set out by the court.
“On the question of legislative competence, the UK Government’s clear view remains that a Bill legislating for a referendum on independence would be outside the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament.”
The UK Government said it had asked the court to look at a number of preliminary issues and that the court has agreed to do so, and will look at them at the same time as it looks at the substantive case.