Supreme Court Judgment: Scottish Independence Referendum

Attorney General – in the House of Commons on 7th December 2022.

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Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change)

Whether she has made an assessment of the implications for her policies of the findings of the Supreme Court on the reference by the Lord Advocate of devolution issues under paragraph 34 of schedule 6 to the Scotland Act 1998.

Photo of Allan Dorans Allan Dorans Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Foreign Affairs Team Member), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Policing)

Whether she has made an assessment of the implications for her policies of the findings of the Supreme Court on the reference by the Lord Advocate of devolution issues under paragraph 34 of schedule 6 to the Scotland Act 1998.

Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis The Attorney-General

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Opposition Front Bench and the Chairman of the Justice Committee for their extremely kind comments. I welcome the ruling of the Supreme Court. The Court was very clear—it was a unanimous decision—that a Bill legislating for a referendum on Scottish independence is not within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament.

Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change)

That might be the case in the Supreme Court, but if we look back, we see that John Major said of Scotland that

“no nation could be held irrevocably in a Union against its will”,

so will the Attorney General confirm that Scotland is in a voluntary Union, and if so, what is the legal mechanism to affirm that or, more importantly, the legal means by which Scotland can voluntarily leave the Union?

Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis The Attorney-General

The UK Supreme Court was very clear that an independence referendum was related to reserved matters, and the Government welcome the Court’s confirmation of this point. What the people of Scotland want is to see the Government working with them to solve the issues that matter to them.

Photo of Allan Dorans Allan Dorans Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Foreign Affairs Team Member), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Policing)

Following the recent Supreme Court judgment, the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Scotland have been asked on numerous occasions what is the democratic route available to Scotland to leave the Union. Neither has been able to provide an answer. If the people of England wanted to leave this alleged voluntary Union of equals, what democratic process would be available to them?

Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis The Attorney-General

I believe that I have answered this question already, and I have heard the Prime Minister answer it several times in the course of Prime Minister’s questions. The Supreme Court rejected the Lord Advocate’s submission that an advisory referendum would have only an indirect and consequential effect on the reserved matter. This matter is reserved.

Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant Conservative, Lichfield

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Supreme Court’s judgment will also have an unexpected side effect in that it will force the Scottish Government to concentrate on domestic policy for once?

Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis The Attorney-General

I agree that the people of Scotland want us to work together to fix the challenges we face collectively. Now is the time to make sure we work together, and that is what this Government will do.