Scottish govt vows UK independence push despite court setback

Thursday, Nov 24, 2022

EDINBURGH: Scotland´s leader vowed on Wednesday to turn the next UK general election into a de facto vote on independence, after judges blocked her bid to hold a new referendum without London´s approval.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the ruling by the Supreme Court in London exposed the “myth” that Scotland could voluntarily leave the United Kingdom. The unanimous ruling torpedoed the Scottish nationalist government´s push to hold a second plebiscite next October -- nearly a decade after Scots narrowly opted to remain in a pre-Brexit UK.

Sturgeon, who leads the Scottish National Party (SNP), said she respected the ruling, but accused Westminster of showing “contempt” for Scotland´s democratic will. The SNP-led government will now look to use the UK election due by early 2025 as a “de facto referendum” on separating after more than 300 years, Sturgeon told a news conference.

“We must and we will find another democratic, lawful and constitutional means by which the Scottish people can express their will. In my view, that can only be an election,” she added. Outside the court, David Simpson, 70, who first voted for the SNP in 1970, said he was still hopeful of achieving independence in the future.

“This is not the end of the road,” he told AFP. “There is nothing impossible.” In Edinburgh, campaigners holding a Saltire flag emblazoned with the words “Scottish not British” said their voices had been stifled.

“Nobody is letting us have our say,” said Gerard Clarke, 74. Protester David Turner said the rejection would only strengthen support for going it alone. “They might try to stop it but it´s now a one-way path to independence,” he added.

Campaigners, however, were met with anti-independence supporters at a rally outside the Scottish parliament waving placards including one reading: “We want to stay in the UK.” In the UK parliament in London, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called the ruling “clear and definitive” and called for politicians north and south of the border to work together.

SNP leaders were scornful, arguing Sunak lacked a democratic mandate of his own after he was made prime minister only via the votes of Tory MPs. The Supreme Court´s Scottish president, Robert Reed, said the power to call a referendum was “reserved” to the UK parliament under Scotland´s devolution settlement.