The question of Scotland’s right to hold another Independence Referendum in 2023, was presented to the UK Supreme Court by the Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain, on the request of Nicola Sturgeon. Bain and Sturgeon made the case that the Scottish Parliament holds the power to initiate a Referendum Bill because of its ‘consultative’ nature. The results of such a Referendum would indicate the will of the nation, to the Parliament, but would have no immediate course of action. Similarly to Brexit, the SNP aimed to conduct Scottish Independence by holding lengthy discussions and considerations about the fate of the nation. However, the UK Supreme Court ruled that an Independence Referendum was solely within Westminster’s scope of power. Lord Reed, President of the Supreme Court, asserted that such a referendum would be morethan ‘consultative’, with an innate effect on the fate of the union. The Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, has embraced the Supreme Court’s “clear and definitive ruling”. Yet this is a far cry from the attitudes of Nicola Sturgeon, who made a statement on the day of the ruling, that ‘the case for Scotland becoming independent is more compelling and urgent than ever’.
But what about the other devolved nations? Scotland’s less autonomous brother, Wales, is undoubtedly affected by the Supreme Court’s ruling. Plaid Cymru’s leader, Liz Saville Roberts, has weighed in on the judgement, arguing that it is high time for Westminster to warrant each of the devolved nations the right for self-determination. Wales is electorally dominated by Labour, and Saville Roberts has criticised the role of Welsh Labour in the independence discourse. Furthermore, Saville Roberts has deemed its leader, Mark Drakeford (the country’s First Minister), to be a ‘nodding dog opposition’ in the face of the ‘undemocratic Conservatives’.
In the wake of the Supreme Court Ruling and backlash from National Party leaders, one is undoubtedly faced with the fact that the union of the United Kingdom is anything but an equal partnership. Only two months prior to the ruling, pro-independence marches organised by the ‘All Under One Banner Group’, defiantly took place across Scotland and Wales. Calls for further devolved measures and official Referendums have heightened immeasurably since the Coronavirus pandemic. The case for Independence throughout the devolved nations is in fact, critical, and it looks as though Westminster is acutely aware. The question is, how long can the United Kingdom remain united?