London, Nov. 24:The U.K. Supreme Court has ruled that Scotland does not have the power to hold a new referendum on independence without the consent of the British government.
The judgment is a setback for the Scottish government’s campaign to break away from the United Kingdom.
The top court ruled that the Scottish Parliament “does not have the power to legislate for a referendum on Scottish independence.”
The semi-autonomous Scottish government wants to hold a referendum next October with the question “Should Scotland be an independent country?”
The Conservative U.K.-wide government in London refuses to approve a vote, saying the question was settled in a 2014 referendum that saw Scottish voters reject independence.
Wednesday’s ruling is unlikely to end the long-running wrangle over the issue.
The semi-autonomous Scottish government has asked the top court to decide whether the Scottish Parliament can legislate to hold a referendum next October with the question “Should Scotland be an independent country?”
The Conservative U.K. government in London refuses to approve a vote, saying the question was settled in a 2014 referendum that saw Scottish voters reject independence by a margin of 55% to 45%.
The pro-independence government in Edinburgh wants to revisit the decision, though, arguing that Britain’s departure from the European Union — which a majority of Scottish voters opposed — has radically changed the political and economic landscape.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon argues that she has a democratic mandate from the Scottish people to hold a new secession vote because there is an independence-supporting majority in the Scottish Parliament.
During Supreme Court hearings last month, Dorothy Bain, the Scottish government’s top law officer, said the majority of Scottish lawmakers had been elected on commitments to hold a fresh independence referendum. She also said a referendum would be advisory, rather than legally binding — though a “yes” vote would create strong momentum for Scotland to break away.
U.K. government lawyer James Eadie argued that power to hold a referendum rests with the U.K. Parliament in London, because “it’s of critical importance to the United Kingdom as a whole,” not just Scotland. Polls suggest Scots are about evenly split on independence — and also that a majority of voters do not want a new referendum anytime soon.
The five Supreme Court justices deciding the case could rule that Scotland has the authority to hold a referendum, or that it doesn’t – or they could simply refuse to rule at all. (AP)