Wednesday, November 23, 2022
Edinburgh – (AFP)
Scottish Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon vowed on Wednesday to make the upcoming UK general election a de facto referendum on independence after Britain’s high court blocked her bid to hold a new referendum without London’s approval.
Sturgeon said the ruling by the High Court in London rejected the idea that Scotland could leave the UK voluntarily.
Scotland’s national government unanimously ruled out attempts to hold a second referendum next October, nearly a decade after Scots opted to remain in the United Kingdom ahead of Brexit.
Sturgeon, who leads the Scottish National Party, said he respected the court’s ruling but accused Westminster of showing “disdain” for Scotland’s democratic will.
He indicated at a press conference that the government would now consider UK elections scheduled for early 2025 as a “genuine referendum” on secession for more than 300 years.
“We will find another democratic, legal and constitutional way for the people of Scotland to express their will. In my opinion, that could be an election,” he added.
Outside court, David Simpson, 70, who first voted for the Scottish National Party in 1970, said he still hoped to achieve independence in the future.
“This is not the end of the road. Nothing is impossible,” he told AFP.
In Edinburgh, activists carrying a Scottish flag emblazoned with the words “Scottish not British” said their voices were suppressed.
“Nobody lets us have our say,” said Gerard Clark, 74.
But the march was met with a rally outside the Scottish Parliament by anti-independence protesters, one of whom waved banners reading “We want to stay in England”.
For his part, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called the decision “clear and decisive” in the House of Commons, adding that “it is time for politicians to come together and this is what this government will do.”
But SNP leaders quipped that Sunak lacked a democratic mandate after becoming prime minister with the votes of Conservative MPs.
Robert Reid, the Chief Justice of Scotland, said the power to hold a referendum was “protected” by the UK Parliament under the Scottish devolution settlement.
“As a result, the Scottish Parliament has no power to legislate a referendum on Scottish independence,” he added.
In October of the following year, the Edinburgh government asked “Should Scotland be an independent country?” Wanted to vote on the question.
But the UK government, which oversees the country’s constitutional affairs, has refused to give Edinburgh the power to hold a referendum.
He believes the last referendum, in 2014, when 55 per cent rejected Scottish independence, settled the question for a generation.
But Sturgeon and members of her party now say there is an “unquestionable mandate” for another independence referendum, particularly in light of the UK’s exit from the EU.
A majority of voters in Scotland opposed Brexit. However, for the first time, pro-independence MPs won a majority in the recent parliamentary elections in Scotland.
Opinion polls indicate a slight lead for independence supporters.
Scotland is not Kosovo
Lawyers for the Scottish Government wanted to rule on the rights of a devolved parliament in Edinburgh if London continued to block the independence referendum.
The Scottish government sought to create its own legal framework for another referendum, arguing that “the right to self-determination is fundamental and inalienable”.
But the Supreme Court rejected the SNP’s international comparisons comparing Scotland to Quebec or Kosovo.
Reed explained that the international law of self-determination only applies when former colonies or a people are oppressed by military occupation or when a particular group is deprived of their political and civil rights.
He added that none of those conditions apply to Scotland.
He also rejected the SNP’s argument that the referendum was only “advisory” and not legally binding.
The judge added that such a vote would have “major political consequences” regardless of his legal status.
“As long as I have breath in my body, I refuse to give up the basic principles of democracy,” Sturgeon said, announcing that the SNP would hold a special conference in the new year to prepare for a bid for independence.
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