UK Government asks Supreme Court to throw out referendum bid

THE UK Government has filed papers with the Supreme Court that will argue that Holyrood’s bid to hold its own referendum on independence should be thrown out.

The Scottish Government has tried to pre-empt Supreme Court action over its plans to legislate to hold its own re-run of the 2014 poll without the consent of the UK Government.

The Lord Advocate, the Scottish Government’s most senior law officer, has asked the Supreme Court to give an opinion on whether the Scottish Parliament had the necessary powers to hold such an indicative vote.

In an assessment handed over to the court, Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain said she “does not have the necessary degree of confidence” that Holyrood’s powers alone are enough to hold a re-run of the 2014 referendum.

Read more: Scotland’s Lord Advocate lacks ‘confidence’ over referendum powers

But the UK Government will now argue that the case should thrown out immediately.

UK Government lawyers will point to the fact the Supreme Court is being asked to give a view on legislation that is only in draft form and could be amended as it moves through Holyrood and is ‘premature’.

The UK Government is expected to argue that the Scotland Act sets out a process to test whether legislation is within the competence of Holyrood – which starts after the Bill has been completely passed by MSPs in full.

But the UK Government still believes that the question of holding a referendum falls outside the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament.

Lawyers acting on behalf of the Tory Government will argue that the Lord Advocate’s referral to the Supreme Court raises important legal questions, which cut across the statutory process for establishing the competence of devolved legislation – which they will claim justifies the court considering whether the referral should be accepted.

Read more: UK Supreme Court to proceed with Nicola Sturgeon’s Indyref2 case

A UK Government spokesperson said: “We have been clear that now is not the time to be discussing another independence referendum, when people across Scotland want both their governments to be working together on the issues that matter to them and their families.

“However, following the Lord Advocate’s referral of the Scottish Government’s draft Scottish Independence Referendum Bill, the UK Government has today lodged its initial response with the Supreme Court.

“The papers confirm that the Advocate General for Scotland will become a formal party to the case, and ask the court to consider whether it should accept the Lord Advocate’s referral.”

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