Scots independence vote planned for Oct 19, 2023

Nicola Sturgeon

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced on Tuesday that the Scottish Parliament will publish an independence referendum bill with a planned date for the vote to take place on October 19, 2023.

Sturgeon vowed to take legal action to ensure a vote if the UK government tried to block it.

She said Scotland’s leading law officer Dorothy Bain QC, the Lord Advocate, has agreed to refer the case to the Supreme Court, the UK’s highest court, with court papers being served on UK government law officers on Tuesday afternoon.

Sturgeon said she would be writing to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson for permission to hold a consultative referendum, saying it was vital the vote was legal.

Johnson said: “We’ll study it very carefully and respond properly. I think the focus of the country should be building a stronger economy.”

“That’s what we’re doing. I certainly think that we’ll have a stronger economy and a stronger country together.”

Johnson has previously refused to issue a “Section 30” order, which gives authority to the Scottish Parliament to hold a referendum.

Sturgeon said: “If it does transpire that there is no lawful way for this parliament to give the people of Scotland the choice of independence in a referendum — and if the UK government continues to deny a Section 30 order — my party will fight the UK general election on this single question: ‘Should Scotland be an independent country’.”

She said in that case the said the next UK general election would become a “de facto referendum.”

Sturgeon said: “My determination is to secure a process that allows the people of Scotland, whether yes, no or yet to be decided, to express their views in a legal, constitutional referendum so the majority view can be established fairly and democratically.

“The steps I am setting out today seek to achieve that …

“Let the opposition if they can make the case for continued Westminster rule and then let the people decide.”

REACTION: 

The Supreme Court: “This afternoon (Tuesday 28 June), the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom (UKSC) received a reference by the Lord Advocate under paragraph 34 of Schedule 6 to the Scotland Act 1998 under the Supreme Court’s devolution jurisdiction.

“Under devolution legislation enacted by the UK Parliament, the Supreme Court may decide devolution issues, such as whether the devolved executive and legislative authorities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have acted or propose to act within their powers.

“Devolution cases can reach the Supreme Court through a reference from someone who can exercise relevant statutory power, such as – in this instance – the Lord Advocate.

“This reference does not need to be granted permission by the Court for it to proceed.

“The first step will be for the reference to be referred to the President of the Supreme Court, The Right Hon The Lord Reed of Allermuir for directions.

“He will decide whether there are preliminary matters to be addressed, when the case will be listed (heard), how many Justices will consider the reference, and which Justices will sit on the bench.

“At this stage, we cannot confirm when the case will be heard.

“We will announce further details via the UKSC website and Twitter account in due course.”

Prof Aileen McHarg, public law expert at Durham University, called Sturgeon’s Supreme Court reference a “clever” move.

“This is quite an obscure process, but I think it is quite a clever way to avoid all those arguments that you would have expected about the lawfulness of a bill as the legislation is going through the parliament …

“The test they will be applying is: is there more than a loose or consequential connection between this bill, or proposed legislation, and the reserved matter of the Union?”

Walid Koudmani, chief market analyst at financial brokerage XTB: “We saw some selling out of the British Pound in reaction to the news that SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has proposed 19th October 2023.

“The pound remains under severe pressure from the US Dollar and EURO, mostly in reaction to rising US interest rates and an underperforming UK economy in the previous quarters.

“The last thing needed right now is additional uncertainty from a potential second independence referendum in Scotland, especially when the volatility created from the first indyref is still fresh in the memory.

“That being said, it’s hard to see that Sturgeon’s campaign for a second indy ref being successful given power for such a decision remains in Westminster.

“As such, any impact on the pound is likely to be limited for the time being.”

Sinn Féin National Chairperson Declan Kearney: “The people of Scotland have a fundamental, democratic right to decide their own future through a referendum.

“This decisive strategic initiative by the Scottish government now provides a road map for the Scottish people to determine their own future.

“Successive elections and polls have demonstrated a growing majority in support of Scottish independence and change.

“The Scottish First Minister has been clear, if the British government continues to block the right of Scottish people to have their say, the SNP will fight a general election as a de facto referendum. Either way the Scottish people will be given a democratic voice to have their say.

“Brexit has changed everything across these islands. Just like the people of the north, Scotland overwhelmingly rejected Brexit and voted to remain with the EU.

“The British government cannot stand in the way of democracy. The people of Scotland must have their say.

“At the same time the momentum for constitutional change in Ireland has never been stronger.

“The Irish government should now also act positively, and immediately convene a national Citizens Assembly on the constitutional future of Ireland. This would represent an important landmark towards securing an Irish unity referendum.

“In parallel with Scotland, it is time to prepare for change in Ireland, and plan for an agreed, progressive future, which is free from the reckless interference, and appalling disregard for democracy and international law of this British government.”

ALBA Party leader Alex Salmond“I welcome that we now have some clarity of purpose on independence and that a starting gun has finally been fired with a clear timetable leading to 19th October next year.

“However, we need a united movement and grassroots campaign to deliver success. In particular, voices outwith Government will be needed so that the cause of independence is not weighed down by the day-to-day troubles of the SNP/Green coalition. 

“We should not give up on bending Boris Johnson to the people’s will on a section 30 Order to deliver a referendum under the same terms I previously negotiated in the Edinburgh Agreement which enabled the referendum in 2014.

“There has never been a weaker UK Prime Minister. But that will require a concerted campaign of popular, parliamentary and diplomatic initiatives.

“And it is urgency which is required to stop Westminster taking Scotland to the cleaners on a daily basis. 

“The question of Scottish sovereignty can also not simply be left to the UK Supreme Court.

“The concept of using the UK General Election as a backstop will cause a wry smile to those within the SNP and in the wider movement who have been calling for that for the last five years.

“However, even then, we need to be prepared with the popular campaign which will be required to force recognition of Scotland’s Claim of Right.”

About the Author

Mark McSherry
Dalriada Media LLC sites are edited by veteran news journalist Mark McSherry, a former staff editor and reporter with Reuters, Bloomberg and major newspapers including the South China Morning Post, London's Sunday Times and The Scotsman. McSherry's journalism has also appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Independent, The New York Times, London's Evening Standard and Forbes. McSherry is also a professor of journalism and communication arts in universities and colleges in New York City. Scottish-born McSherry has an MBA from the University of Edinburgh and a Certificate in Global Affairs from New York University.