The UK Supreme Court has ruled that the Scottish Parliament cannot organize its own independence referendum.
Wednesday’s decision was unanimous. This confirmed that the Scottish government did not have the legal authority to pass legislation that would allow a new vote to be taken without the permission of the West Minister – something that successive governments in London have refused to grant.
Despite Wednesday’s decision, the issue of Scottish independence has not gone away.
The number of Scots is divided equally between those who want to remain part of the United Kingdom and those who want Scotland to become an independent state.
So what happens next? Predicting the future in politics is notoriously difficult, but there are three main scenarios that could play out in Scotland.
Scottish National Party may bide its time
The SNP may wait until the next UK national election scheduled for 2025, hoping they will win a larger majority, strengthening their hand in favor of independence.
“We want it to be beyond doubt,” they said. Ruarid KhannaSNP activist.
“We need to convince more people [that] independence is the best way forward,” he told Euronews.
Hanna believes that if the SNP gets even more votes in 2025, it will bolster the case for a second referendum and put pressure on Westminster to allow it both at home and internationally.
While acknowledging that it was too early to tell, he hoped that the “clear deficit of democracy” shown by the British government in not allowing the vote to take place would increase support for independence.
“Today, many people in Scotland who used to sit on the fence will listen to the evening news and think, how is this right?
“This union cannot be voluntary if there was no way out,” he added, suggesting it would become something “rather ominous” if Scotland were “hostage” in the UK.
However, many argue that this strategy can backfire.
If the SNP continues to focus on holding a second referendum, which seems unlikely so far, there is a risk that the Scots could become frustrated with the seemingly unnecessary distraction from other issues, especially in the midst of a recession and cost-of-living crisis.
In a statement, the Scottish Conservatives called on the SNP to “get off the obsession with referendums and focus on what really matters to the people of Scotland.”
“Now the country is facing huge problems,” the party leader said. Douglas Ross. “Our economy and our National Health Service are in crisis.”
In addition, there is every chance that the elections of 2025 will not lead to a dramatic improvement in the situation of the SNP, creating a party to repeat what happened before.
“I don’t have a crystal ball… now it’s open. But if I had to bet, I’d bet it wouldn’t make much of a difference,” he said. But then again, I could be wrong.
Scottish National Party can safely park independence
The second likely scenario is that the independence issue could be dropped by the SNP, at least temporarily.
“Of course there is quite a lot of support for independence in the opinion polls,” Basta said. “But the longer this goes on without any tangible results, the more pressure is likely to be on the SNP to do something different.”
He suggested that Scottish nationalists faced “a very difficult choice”.
They may “move away” from independence in the medium term – which he says is “not particularly attractive” for the party – or continue to engage in “political maneuvering” that will not lead to independence, which could undermine support.
Ultimately, they can “park independence and dedicate themselves to perhaps deepening or expanding the devolution,” he said.
Again, there are doubts that this will happen.
“As long as the SNP is a political party and Scotland remains in the Union, the SNP will campaign for independence,” Ruarid Khanna said.
He continued: Independence is “clearly important to the electorate in Scotland…. The SNP would do the electorate a disservice if it ignored the wishes of the people.”
The SNP has won eight elections in a row since the first independence referendum in 2014. The party, together with the Scottish Greens, has the largest independence majority that Holyrood has ever had.
However, faced with the current stalemate, Khanna said the SNP needed to “explore other options.”
“There will be a conference with party members in the new year to see exactly how this is happening and what form it is taking.”
“There are many issues that need to be resolved over the next few months,” he added. “Right now we don’t have the answers.”
Carry on anyway
Some have argued that the SNP should go further and hold a referendum without Westminster’s approval.
In 2017, Catalonia held a referendum on separation from Spain, which the Spanish government declared illegal. The supporters of independence won by a 90% margin, although a large number of voters did not turn out.
However, the SNP and Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon repeatedly and strongly ruled this out.
Speaking after the verdict, Sturgeon said her party would respect the Supreme Court’s decision.
“In securing Scottish independence, we will always be guided by a commitment to democracy and respect for the rule of law,” she said.
Basta explained that one of the reasons for this desire to go down the legal path was that the SNP wanted “international recognition”.
“They are fully aware that if they tried to make some kind of unilateral declaration of independence… they would be seen as irresponsible.”
“That would be politically unacceptable,” he added.
Many international observers of the Catalan vote ruled that it was illegal because it was not sanctioned by the central government and did not meet certain electoral standards.
Whatever the case, Hannah said the verdict should be put aside for all to see.
“Those who do not live in Scotland should ask themselves what this means for democracy in general.”
“If the UK government is serious about denying democracy within its own borders. What international implications does this have? Does it create precedents for other countries,” he added.