Independence referendum Bill sent to Supreme Court

Dorothy Bain

Scotland’s leading law officer Dorothy Bain QC, the Lord Advocate, has asked the UK’s Supreme Court to decide whether the Scottish Parliament has the power to legislate for an independence referendum.

“The Lord Advocate needs to have the necessary degree of confidence that a Bill would be within devolved competence in order to ‘clear’ such a statement,” said court papers.

“In the present case, the Lord Advocate does not have the necessary degree of confidence.”

The Scottish Government said: “The Lord Advocate’s reference to the Supreme Court on whether the Scottish Parliament has the power to legislate for an independence referendum has been published.

“The Lord Advocate’s full written case will be filed in due course.

“The Scottish Independence Referendum Bill, which accompanies the reference, was published last week, and sets out that a consultative independence referendum would be held on 19 October 2023.

“In order to establish whether the Scottish Parliament can pass the Bill, the Lord Advocate has asked the Supreme Court to decide if the matter is devolved under the Scotland Act 1998.

“The Lord Advocate decided to make the Supreme Court reference following consideration of a number of factors including the constitutional significance of the matter and the fact that issues of law remain unresolved.”

The Scottish Government’s Culture, Europe and International Development Minister Neil Gray said “There is a substantial majority in the Scottish Parliament in favour of an independence referendum and therefore a clear democratic mandate.

“However, as the First Minister set out last week, there remains debate over whether the Scottish Parliament has the powers to legislate to hold a referendum.

“A Supreme Court decision on the matter seeks to accelerate us to the point that we have legal clarity.

“We hope that it will be deemed to be within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament. If that outcome is secured we will then introduce the Bill.

“While that decision now rests in the hands of the Supreme Court, we will not comment on the arguments in the case.

“Our focus remains clear – we will continue to set out the strong and compelling case for Scotland to become an independent country.”

On June 28, First Minister Nicola 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.”