The Supreme Court will rule next week on whether the Scottish Parliament has the power to hold an independence referendum without Westminster’s approval.
The UK’s highest court will hand down its judgment in the case at 9.45am on Wednesday, November 23 after considering arguments from both sides last month.
The Scottish Government is aiming to hold an independence referendum on October 19 next year. But Supreme Court justices have been deliberating whether Holyrood has the legal competency to pass legislation allowing a vote to take place.
The UK Government’s position is that a referendum on independence would be outside the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament.
In 2014, an agreement was reached between the Scottish Government and the UK Government to enable the temporary transfer of powers from Westminster to Holyrood to allow a vote to be held.
The process by which the referendum was held eight years ago has previously been held as the “gold standard”.
In her speech at the SNP’s conference in Aberdeen last month, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said “we will respect the judgment” of the Supreme Court if it determines that Holyrood does not have the necessary powers to hold a referendum.
However, the SNP leader insisted that in that scenario, the case for independence will be put to people in an election.
“Over the next two days, the Supreme Court will consider whether the current law allows the Scottish Parliament to legislate for an advisory referendum,” she told delegates at the SNP’s conference.
“If Westminster had any respect at all for Scottish democracy, this court hearing wouldn’t be necessary, but Westminster has no such respect.”
The Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain KC, the Scottish Government’s top law officer, argued in court that Holyrood’s competence over the Bill was a “critically important question”.
She asked the judges to rule on its legislative competence, saying a majority of MSPs were elected in 2021 on a manifesto commitment to hold another referendum.
The SNP was allowed to intervene in a separate written submission to the court.
The UK Government’s legal representative, Sir James Eadie KC, argued it was “obvious” Holyrood does not have legislative competence.
He also argued the Bill was at too early a stage for the court to issue a ruling on.
The court will firstly address whether it will determine the “reference” from the Lord Advocate, before turning to the question of reserved matters.