After months of waiting and speculation, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced on Tuesday 28 June the process she intended to adopt to organize a new referendum on Scottish independence, after the failed one in 2014 – the yes to remaining within the United Kingdom won by 55.3%. This path will be “legal” and “advisory” decreed, in her precise and ultra-determined way, the leader of the independence party SNP (Scottish National Party). It also set the date for this popular consultation: October 19, 2023.
A very hypothetical date: Mme Sturgeon explained that he had asked the Advocate General for Scotland (the “Lord Advocate”) to take the case to the British Supreme Court, so that the latter could determine whether the Scottish Parliament had the power to legislate on an advisory referendum. The Advocate General was to submit this request on Tuesday. Only if the country’s highest legal body answers in the affirmative will the Prime Minister go further and table the referendum bill in the Parliament of Edinburgh.
The head of the Scottish executive for almost eight years has been trying to break an impasse: the government of Boris Johnson has repeated in all tones for the past two years that it will not authorize a new referendum on Scotland and that of 2014 “valid for a generation”. Since the NATO summit in Madrid, the British Prime Minister insisted on Tuesday, explaining that his priority was the national economic recovery and that the United Kingdom is “stronger when united”.
Opposed to a Catalan-style referendum
In the current state of its powers, the Scottish Parliament can legislate on education, transport or justice, but not on constitutional or sovereign matters: it needs the green light from the House of Commons to vote on a bill independence referendum. An illusory prospect, given that Mr Johnson’s Conservative Party has an absolute majority in Westminster. Gold Mme Sturgeon said it unambiguously: there is no question of embarking on a Catalan-style referendum, deemed illegal. “His result would simply not be recognized by the international community,” explained the leader.
The path she chooses is risky: the decisions of the Supreme Court are unpredictable and there is no indication that she could validate a loss of prerogatives from Westminster to the benefit of a devolved Parliament. Mme Sturgeon did not evade this scenario, saying that if the Court rejected the possibility of an advisory referendum, then his party, the SNP, would focus its entire campaign on the issue of independence in the next British general election, transforming them, according to her, in “de facto referendum”.
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