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Suzanne Townley

News Editor, Solicitors Journal

Supreme Court rejects Scottish referendum bid

Supreme Court rejects Scottish referendum bid


The court confirmed it did not have power over areas of the constitution

The Supreme Court has unanimously rejected a bid by the Scottish government to hold an independence vote without the approval of the UK parliament.

First minister Nicola Sturgeon hopes to hold a referendum on 19 October 2023. However, the UK government has refused to grant its consent to another vote on the issue. Sturgeon and her government had appealed to the Supreme Court to enable them to hold a referendum without the UK government’s consent.

Lord Reed, president of the UK Supreme Court, said it did not have power over areas of the constitution including the union between Scotland and England, and that such issues are reserved to UK parliament. If the two governments cannot agree on the issue, the Scottish parliament is unable to legislate for a referendum.

Commenting on the ruling, public law expert Stephen Parkinson, senior partner of Kingsley Napley LLP and a former deputy head of the Attorney General's office, commented: "This was plainly the correct decision and I am sure that it will not have come as a surprise to Nicola Sturgeon. 

“She needed to show that she had tried to progress the issue of independence notwithstanding the refusal of the UK government to countenance a fresh referendum. Her immediate acceptance of the decision, and recognition that the Supreme Court does not make law and only interprets it, does her credit. Having explored this legal option and signalled respect for the outcome, she will, of course, now continue to agitate politically."