Britain’s Supreme Court has ruled that the Scottish government does not have the right to hold a referendum on independence next year without the consent of the British government.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had wanted to hold a referendum on 19 October next year, and her government has drafted a bill to enable this.
The British government has so far refused, however, to grant the formal consent for a vote that was in place before the independence referendum that was held in 2014.
Supreme Court president Lord Reed said that the bill related to matters that had been reserved to the British parliament under the laws that created the devolved Scottish parliament in 1999.
“Accordingly, in the absence of any modification of the definition of reserved matters … the Scottish parliament does not have the power to legislate for a referendum on Scottish independence,” the court said.
The judge also rejected the Scottish government's argument that any referendum would be "advisory", and would have no legal effect on the union.
“Even if the referendum has no immediate legal consequences, it would be a political event with important political consequences,” he stated.
In a tweet, Sturgeon said that she was "disappointed" by the decision, but respected the ruling of the court.
The case had been referred to the Supreme Court by Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain KC, the Scottish government's top law officer.
Asking for a definitive ruling, she had described the issue as being of "exceptional public importance".