The UK Government has filed papers urging judges to dismiss the Scottish Government’s request for a ruling on whether it has the power to hold a second independence referendum.
The Lord Advocate, the Scottish Government’s most senior law officer has asked the Supreme Court to look into whether it could hold its own re-run of the 2014 poll without the consent of the UK Government.
In her filing, Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain said she “does not have the necessary degree of confidence” the legislation would be in the gift of Holyrood.
It follows First Minister Nicola Sturgeon setting out her route map to securing another referendum on independence, which she wants to hold on October 19, 2023.
But the UK Government has said the request should be thrown out immediately.
It is understood they asked the court if the referral was “premature”, given the usual process would be for the Scottish Secretary to refer legislation to the court after it had passed at Holyrood.
A provision of the Scotland Act allows for the Lord Advocate “to refer to the Supreme Court any devolution issue which is not the subject of proceedings”.
Just received this from Johnson (one of his last acts as PM?). To be clear, Scotland will have the opportunity to choose independence – I hope in a referendum on 19 October 2023 but, if not, through a general election. Scottish democracy will not be a prisoner of this or any PM. pic.twitter.com/EAgIVvEuoc
— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) July 6, 2022
Tory leadership hopefuls Jeremy Hunt and Sajid Javid said on Sunday it should be at least 10 years before another referendum is held, flying in the face of the Scottish Government timetable that would see Scots head to the polls on the issue next October.
A UK Government spokesperson said: “We have been clear that now is not the time to be discussing another independence referendum, when people across Scotland want both their governments to be working together on the issues that matter to them and their families.
“However, following the Lord Advocate’s referral of the Scottish Government’s draft Scottish Independence Referendum Bill, the UK Government has today lodged its initial response with the Supreme Court.
“The papers confirm that the Advocate General for Scotland will become a formal party to the case, and ask the Court to consider whether it should accept the Lord Advocate’s referral.”
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