The UK government has called for the request for a Scottish independence referendum next year to be rejected by the supreme court.
Ministers believe the best time for lawmakers to make a ruling on legislation paving the way for a new vote to take place is after a bill has been passed, not before it is considered by MSPs.
Outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson has consistently sought to reject Nicola Sturgeon’s bid to hold a new poll in October 2023.
The First Minister asked Scotland’s top law official to ask the supreme court whether there is a legal basis for a referendum.
Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain previously said she “did not have the necessary degree of confidence” a vote could take place.
The UK Government has now announced will play a part in that process, but only to immediately deny the request for the ballot.
A statement read: “We have been clear that now is not the time to be discussing another independence referendum, when people across Scotland want both their governments to be working together on the issues that matter to them and their families.”
“However, following the Lord Advocate’s referral of the Scottish Government’s draft Scottish Independence Referendum Bill, the UK Government has today lodged its initial response with the Supreme Court.
“The papers confirm that the Advocate General for Scotland will become a formal party to the case, and ask the Court to consider whether it should accept the Lord Advocate’s referral.”
The UK’s Government’s top adviser on Scots law will have a formal role in the court case after being named a “formal party”.
Lord Stewart QC was named in the initial response to the filing.
If the Supreme Court returns a verdict that even an indicative vote was not within the powers of the Scottish Parliament, the First Minister said the next general election would act as a “de facto referendum”, with the SNP running on the single issue of independence.
The case will be heard by supreme court president, Lord Reed of Allermuir, it has been announced.
Lord Reed will have the final say on when the case will be heard, if preliminary matters are to be discussed, how many justices will consider the reference and which justices will sit on the bench.