The UK Supreme Court has ruled that the Parliament of Scotland cannot organize its own independence referendum.
Wednesday’s decision was unanimous. He asserted that the Scottish government did not have the legal authority to introduce legislation that would allow a new vote to take place without Westminster’s permission—something successive governments in London had refused to provide.
Despite Wednesday’s ruling, the case for Scotland’s independence will not end.
The number of Scots is divided equally between those who want to remain part of the United Kingdom, and those who want Scotland to become an independent country.
So what will happen next? Predicting the future in politics is notoriously difficult, but there are three main scenarios that could happen in Scotland.
The SNP can bide its time
The SNP can wait until the next national election in the UK due in 2025, in the hope that they will secure an increased majority, strengthening their case for independence.
“We want it to be like this,” he said. Rory HannaSNP activist.
We need to convince more people [that] Independence is the best way forward.”
If the SNP were to return a larger vote in 2025, Hanna believes this would strengthen the case for a second referendum and put pressure on Westminster to allow a referendum, both domestically and internationally.
While realizing it was still too early to tell, he hoped that the “manifest democratic inability” shown by the British government in not allowing voting would strengthen support for independence.
“A lot of people all over Scotland today, who would sit on the fence before, are going to listen to the evening news tonight and think, How is that right?
“This cannot be a voluntary union if there is no way out,” he added, suggesting that it would become a “rather sinister” thing if Scotland were “hostage” within the UK.
However, many have argued that this strategy can backfire.
If the SNP continues to focus on securing a second referendum, which seems unlikely at the moment, there is a risk Scots could become frustrated by a seemingly unnecessary distraction from other issues, especially during the recession and the cost of living crisis.
In a statement, the Scottish Conservatives called on the SNP to “abandon their obsession with the referendum and focus on what really matters to the people of Scotland”.
“The country is facing enormous challenges right now,” said the party leader. Douglas Ross. “Our economy and our NHS are in crisis.”
In addition, there is a high chance that the 2025 election will not significantly improve the SNP’s fortunes, setting the party up for a repeat of what has happened before.
Carlo Pastawho co-manages the University of Edinburgh Constitutional Change CenterHe said he was “skeptical” that support for independence would rise as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision.
“I don’t have a crystal ball… It’s open now. But if I had to bet, I’d bet it really wouldn’t change things much,” he said. But then again, I may be wrong.
The SNP can quietly block independence
The second plausible scenario is that the question of independence could be raised by the SNP, at least temporarily.
Basta said: “Of course, there is reasonably high support for independence in the polls. However, the longer this goes on without any tangible results, the more pressure there is likely to be on the SNP to do something different.”
He noted that the Scottish nationalists faced “very difficult choices”.
They could “get away” from independence in the medium term – which he said was not “particularly attractive” to the party – or continue to engage in endless “political maneuvering” with independence, which could erode support.
They may end up “independently parking and possibly devoting themselves to deepening or broadening devolution,” he said.
Again there is no doubt that this will happen.
Roared Hanna said, “As long as the SNP is a political party, and Scotland remains in the Union, the SNP will campaign for independence.”
He continued, “It is clear that independence is important to the electorate in Scotland… It would do the SNP a disservice to the electorate to ignore the wishes of the people.”
The SNP has won eight consecutive elections since the first independence referendum in 2014. Together with the Scottish Greens, the party has the largest ever pro-independence majority in Holyrood.
However, faced with the current impasse, Hanna said the SNP needed to “explore other options”.
“There will be a conference with party members in the new year to look at exactly how this happens and what form it takes.”
“There are a lot of questions that need to be settled over the next few months,” he added. “We don’t have the answers now.”
Some argued that the SNP should go ahead with the referendum, without Westminster’s consent.
In 2017, Catalonia held a referendum on division with Spain that the country’s government declared illegal. Supporters of independence won by 90%, although large numbers of non-electors did not turn up.
However, the SNP and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon have repeatedly ruled this out.
Speaking after the verdict, Sturgeon said her party would respect the Supreme Court’s decision.
“In ensuring Scotland’s independence we will always be guided by a commitment to democracy and respect for the rule of law,” she said.
One reason for this desire to go the legal route, Basta explained, is that the SNP wants “international recognition”.
“They are very aware that if they continue and try to make some kind of unilateral bid at independence… they will be seen as irresponsible.”
“It would be politically unpalatable,” he added.
Many international observers of the Catalan vote considered it illegitimate because it was not approved by the central government and failed to meet certain electoral criteria.
Whatever the case, Hanna said the ruling should be a pause for thought for everyone.
“For those who do not live in Scotland, they should ask themselves what this means for democracy in general.”
If the UK government is seriously down the path of denying democracy within its borders. What are the international implications of this? Does this set precedents for other countries?