The Supreme Court's president Lord Reed said it did have the power to rule on the issue, and the question of sovereignty was 'reserved' to the UK government

Sturgeon LOSES bid to force fresh Scottish referendum: Supreme Court rules that SNP chief cannot trigger ballot without go-ahead from Rishi Sunak

  • Supreme Court is ruling on Nicola Sturgeon’s latest Scots referendum push
  • SNP wants to hold a ballot next October without permission from Westminster
  • If she loses First Minister vowing to fight next election on issue of independence 

Nicola Sturgeon today suffered a massive setback in her battle to split the UK – as the Supreme Court ruled she cannot hold a referendum without approval from Westminster.

Judges unanimously rejected the SNP chief’s push for Holyrood to legislate for a re-run of the 2014 contest, despite Rishi Sunak refusing to sign off on the plans.

President Lord Reed said the court did have the power to rule on the issue, and the question of sovereignty was ‘reserved’ to the UK government.   

Ms Sturgeon has pledged that if she loses the SNP will fight the next general election on a single issue of holding another referendum – although crucially she has ruled out a ‘wildcat’ vote.     

The Scottish government wanted to hold a ballot on October 19 next year. 

Polls suggest the Scottish public is split down the middle on the independence issue. The last referendum – billed by both sides as once in a generation – delivered a 55-45 per cent win for unionists.  

The Supreme Court's president Lord Reed said it did have the power to rule on the issue, and the question of sovereignty was 'reserved' to the UK government

The Supreme Court’s president Lord Reed said it did have the power to rule on the issue, and the question of sovereignty was ‘reserved’ to the UK government

Nicola Sturgeon faced a moment of truth in her battle to split the UK today as the Supreme Court ruled on whether she can hold a referendum without approval from Westminster

Nicola Sturgeon faced a moment of truth in her battle to split the UK today as the Supreme Court ruled on whether she can hold a referendum without approval from Westminster

The five judges will hand down their decision at 9.45am, with most experts saying Ms Sturgeon is unlikely to be successful

The five judges will hand down their decision at 9.45am, with most experts saying Ms Sturgeon is unlikely to be successful

Polls suggest the Scottish public is split down the middle on the independence issue

Polls suggest the Scottish public is split down the middle on the independence issue

Lord Reed rejected comparisons with Quebec’s efforts to hold a referendum.

‘The court unanimously concludes that the proposed bill does relate to reserved matters,’ he said. ‘The Scottish Parliament does not have the power to legislate for a referendum.’  

During a two-day hearing in October, the Scottish Government’s top law officer, the Lord Advocate, asked the court to rule on whether Holyrood has competence to legislate for the vote.

Dorothy Bain KC said resolving the legality of the proposed Scottish Independence Referendum Bill is a ‘critically important question’.

She said she would not be able to ‘clear’ the introduction of the Bill herself without the court’s ruling.

Ms Bain said the issue had been ‘festering’ since the early days of devolution.

The UK Government’s representative, Sir James Eadie KC, argued the Bill ‘squarely and directly’ relates to a matter reserved to Westminster – the union between Scotland and England.

He also argued the Bill is at too early a stage for the court to issue a ruling on, saying the question of the Bill’s competence should not be ‘farmed out’ to the Supreme Court.

Judges will give their view on the SNP's push to legislate for a re-run of the 2014 contest, despite Rishi Sunak (pictured) refusing to sign off on the plans

Judges will give their view on the SNP’s push to legislate for a re-run of the 2014 contest, despite Rishi Sunak (pictured) refusing to sign off on the plans

The court will firstly address whether it will determine the ‘reference’ from the Lord Advocate, before turning to the question of whether the Bill relates to a reserved issue.

During the two-day hearing, Supreme Court president Lord Reed told the court it would be ‘some months’ before the judgment was handed down.

Ahead of the ruling, a Scottish Government spokeswoman said: ‘There is a substantial majority in the Scottish Parliament in favour of an independence referendum and therefore a clear democratic mandate.

‘However, as the First Minister has set out, there remains debate over whether the Scottish Parliament has the powers to legislate to hold a referendum.

‘The Lord Advocate’s reference of this question to the Supreme Court was intended to achieve legal clarity on this point.

‘We are aware a judgment will be handed down by the court and ministers will respond shortly thereafter.’

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