Scotland is contemplating passing a Scottish Referendum Bill which is concerned with the re-organising of an independence referendum in Scotland. Nevertheless, the UK Government is reluctant to allow the referendum because, in a previous plebiscite, Scotland has decided that it does not want to be independent. Notwithstanding, Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, insists that the COVID-19 pandemic and Brexit changed people’s perception on independence, therefore, now is the right moment to organise another public consultation.
Why is the question of the referendum referred to the Supreme Court?
Under the Scotland Act 1998, it is outwith Holyrood’s competence to legislate on reserved matters. Undoubtedly, legislating on independence falls outside the Scottish Government’s powers. Notwithstanding, some argue that organising a plebiscite which is simply seeking people’s view on independence is not in itself a break-up of the union. Nicola Sturgeon stated that the referendum would be consultative, not self-executing and that both Westminster and Holyrood need to pass legislation before the union is broken.
What is Westminster’s counter-argument?
Westminster is arguing that it is too early in the process to hold a ruling as the Supreme Court is asked to consider a bill before it has passed through Parliament. If the Supreme Court gives green light to this draft bill and it is thereafter amended by the Members of the Scottish Parliament, then the ruling’s outcome is essentially void. At the same time, the UK Government’s central argument is that the question of independence does not fall within the Scottish Government’s reserved matters.
The UK Supreme Court will hear the two parties’ arguments in a two-day hearing starting on the 11th of October 2022.