Nicola Sturgeon’s dream of Scottish independence has hit a major roadblock.

The UK’s Supreme Court ruled unanimously today that the Scottish government cannot hold a second independence referendum in October next year without consent from the UK government. 

The decision came after the court heard two days of legal arguments last month from both the UK and Scottish governments. Today, judges were clear: the Scottish government’s proposed referendum bill is a matter reserved for the UK Parliament. The laws that created the devolved Scottish Parliament in 1999 mean Holyrood does not have the power to pass legislation on areas of the constitution – including the union between Scotland and England. 

In other words, Holyrood cannot hold a referendum without permission from Westminster. And, as the First Minister is all too aware, this permission is unlikely to be granted any time soon. 

Douglas Ross, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, has described today as “a clear and unequivocal verdict delivered by the highest court in the country,” urging the Scottish National Party and their supporters to respect it.

Sturgeon, while admitting the news is “a hard pill to swallow”, has indeed said she respects the ruling of the court. Yet she has hastened to point out that the Supreme Court “doesn’t make law, only interprets it.”

“A law that doesn’t allow Scotland to choose our own future without Westminster consent exposes as myth any notion of the UK as a voluntary partnership & makes case for Indy,” she added. 

Meanwhile, SNP MP, Angus Brendan MacNeil, protested: “Scotland is effectively a hostage in the union.”

While a boost for Unionists, the Supreme Court’s decision is not going to put the issue of independence to bed. But the First Minister is in desperate need of a new strategy.

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