How did the SNP lawfully pursue holding an independence referendum?
What is the SNP’s decision to bypass the court’s restrictive measure?
The Scottish devolved government and Parliament do not have the mandate to hold an independence referendum. The SNP has so far obeyed the law on the Scottish independence route. But the decision by the Supreme Court affected the lawful strategy and blocked democracy in Scotland. Henceforth, The SNP will struggle politically to protect the rights of expression.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced that the next general election will be a de facto referendum on Scottish independence. Sturgeon has said they must follow another democratic and constitutional means to let the Scottish people express their will. According to the First Minister, only an election will let the people of Scotland decide for themselves. Following the Supreme Court’s ruling, the next general election would be an opportunity for the Scottish independence route.
Route to Independence
A de facto referendum means the Scottish Independence Party (SNP) would use the general election’s outcome. If the SNP wins more than 50% of the votes in Scotland, it will use that as a referendum result. The pro-independence Green Party also agrees with the idea, but there is no guarantee that the UK government would agree. All the nationalists agree to back this Scottish independence route. So, Scots participation in a UK national election is the best opportunity.
The First minister had already emphasized that Scotland’s future must be in Scotland’s hands. People who live in Scotland should shape their country, not those at Westminster. Sturgeon had already argued that Westminster did not have the right to block democracy in Scotland. Scotland has been at the heart of British identity, but many Scots have changed their minds about the union over time. However, the top court’s decision makes an independence referendum possible only if the UK government agrees.
The public support for pro-independence politics gave the mandate to the Scottish government to demand an independence referendum. Sturgeon led the SNP to victory in the Scottish Parliament election in 2021. The pro-independence Greens joined the SNP and aimed to help with the Scottish independence route. The Scottish nationalists repeated their political dominance in the 2022 elections and won the largest share of council seats. The government in Scotland was pursuing a legal Scottish independence route.
The SNP is seeking a role to have its voice in the world. Scotland should have the right to legally initiate a referendum with or without the consent of Westminster. The UK government’s refusal to support a referendum and the Supreme Court’s decision frustrated Scottish nationalists. The majority of Scottish electorates have expressed their determination by voting for the pro-independence parties in the 2021 and 2022 elections. Hence, the movement will become a political struggle.
Scottish nationalistic movements started in the 1960s, and a decade later, Scottish nationalists suggested the idea of the Scottish assembly. Scots participated in a referendum on Scottish devolution in 1997, and 74% of the voters backed a Scottish Parliament. Accordingly, the Scotland Act 1998 was introduced and provided an opportunity to establish a Scottish Parliament and Administration. The Scottish government has been a voice for the majority and legally pursued the Scottish independence route.
Scotland Act 1998 does not explicitly mention which matters are devolved to the Scottish Parliament. According to the act, the Scottish Parliament has primary legislative powers, which means the ability to pass acts. The act specifies matters reserved to the UK Parliament, and the unreserved issues are devolved to Scottish Parliament. There are legislative restrictions for the Scottish Parliament which are the major obstacles to the Scottish independence route.
Under the Scotland Act 1998, the Scottish government can make subordinate or secondary legislation. The section 30 order increases the Scottish Parliament’s authority to make secondary legislation. Section 30 modifies the definition of reserved matters and enables the Scottish Parliament to pass a law. Scotland used it for the 2014 Referendum Legislation. Nicola Sturgeon had requested London to agree with the second independence referendum under a section 30 order.
London has refused Sturgeon’s request for a lawful Scottish independence route. It is against democracy to ban the right of expression in Scotland. Scottish nationalists seek independence to strengthen and embed democracy there. Scottish nationalists have run the Parliament and Administration since 2007. They have created more remarkable political and social changes in Scotland than the Conservatives and the Labours. They have the plan to struggle for the right to free expression.
Westminster Ignores Scotland
According to the nationalists, it is the democratic right of the Scots to express their will in a referendum. People in Scotland must have the right to self-determination and to govern how they choose. Westminster ignored Scotland and its overwhelming vote to remain in the EU throughout the Brexit process. The Brexit outcome has added to inflation by increasing the food price. People across the UK have been suffering the cost of everything crisis as inflation hit a record high in four decades.
UK Financial Crisis
Scots are frustrated and blame the UK government for the economic crisis. The people of Scotland are being pushed to the limit. Millions worry about putting food on their table due to the financial crisis across the UK. Scots could experience a more robust economy and a better living standard in an independent Scotland. Now, a de facto independence referendum could be the mechanism for the Scottish government to campaign for independence.
Scotland is not a colony of the United Kingdom to be under the control of British rule against its will. However, the UK government and the Supreme Court are interfering with the rights of Scots’ decision about Scotland’s ruling. The English and Scottish Parliaments passed the Act of Union in 1707 and created the UK. Three centuries on, Scots lawfully pursued the Scottish independence route but struggled to get its right back.
Appointed vs Elected
The court deprived Scots of the political right to have a say for themselves. The First Minister has said the SNP would respect the court but expressed disappointment over its decision. The court itself is an unelected judicial body. “The Constitutional Reform Act 2005 made provision for creating a Supreme Court for the United Kingdom.” Judges are appointed, not elected, while the MSPs are elected.
A Scottish departure from the UK could be a shock to the union. It could have devastating impacts on the international reputation of the UK. Britain aimed to restore its global reputation through Brexit, while nationalist notions increased among the nations inside the UK. Scottish independence route was a lawful process before the court’s decision. Nevertheless, Westminster and Supreme Court’s restrictions on the Scottish Parliament may result in a political struggle.