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Scottish independence referendum

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Sturgeon announces second Scottish independence referendum on October 19, 2023

Nicola Sturgeon has proposed Tuesday to hold a “consultative” referendum on Scottish independence on October 19, 2023, she announced in the Scottish Parliament. The question will be the same as in the 2014 referendum: “Should Scotland be an independent country?”. The details are contained in the Scotland Referendum Act, which Sturgeon’s government has just published.

The chief minister insisted that the consultation must be “legal,” but that legality “must be a fact, not an opinion.” It is with that intention, at Sturgeon’s request, that the Supreme Court ruling has been sought. “We are seeking clarity and legal certainty to remove doubt,” she said. Sturgeon has also written to Boris Johnson reproaching him “that the referendum route has to go through the courts rather than cooperation between the UK and Scottish governments.” If Westminster and the Supreme Court ultimately block the consultation “the SNP will make independence its sole objective in the general election,” she warned.

The Scottish leader presented earlier this month the new campaign for independence and the purpose now was to offer more details of the agenda she plans to follow to achieve the holding of the consultation. The biggest stumbling block is the British government’s refusal to facilitate the referendum, which needs the authorization of Parliament in Westminster for the vote to be legally binding.

In 2014 the referendum was successfully carried out in a consensual manner. Based on the so-called Section 30 Order, the British Parliament granted the Scottish the temporary power to pass the law allowing it to be carried out. The Scottish National Party (SNP) had just won an absolute majority for the first time and the then Prime Minister, David Cameron, facilitated the consultation in which 55% voted against the break-up. Johnson flatly refuses to repeat the experience.

Sturgeon accepts that the judges will decide whether the autonomous Executive can legislate on its own. “The referendum must be legal. That for me is a matter of principle, but it is also a matter of practical reality. An illegal referendum could not go ahead. Even if it could the result would not be accepted by the international community. Such a clear statement would not lead to Scotland becoming independent,” he stressed.

Constitutional experts agree that the Supreme Court is highly unlikely to accept the Scottish government’s power to impose its own referendum.

Polls show that those who wish to leave the UK hover around 45% at the moment, an insufficient percentage for victory. The disasters of Brexit and the animosity against Johnson have encouraged the desire for independence. But the Brexit is also showing the economic problems generated by trade barriers. The war in Ukraine, the increase in the cost of living and the stagnation of the British economy play against giving priority to the consultation at this time.

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