Scotland will need the UK’s approval before staging a referendum on independence

The Scottish Government is seeking a referendum that would allow people to choose if they wish to remain in the UK, or break away as an independent country.
scotland flag

A push from the Scottish Government to make Scotland an independent country hit a roadblock overnight, following a decision by the UK Supreme Court.

The Court ruled that any referendum to decide Scotland’s independence needs to be approved in the UK Parliament. This is consistent with the view of the current UK Government.

Here’s what you need to know.


Scotland is one of four nations making up the UK, alongside England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

While Scotland has its own Government, which is led by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, it is also governed by the UK Government.

Scotland’s Government only has powers handed to it by the UK Government, which includes the management of health, education, and the environment. Similar arrangements are in place for Wales and Northern Ireland.

Independence push

The Scottish Government is seeking a referendum that would allow people to choose if they wish to remain in the UK, or break away as an independent country.

This week, the UK’s Supreme Court ruled that the UK Parliament must consent to a Scottish independence referendum occurring.

They found that the authority to stage a referendum falls out of the Scottish Parliament’s remit, and is instead a matter for the UK Parliament.

Scottish independence

In 2014, Scotland held an unsuccessful referendum for independence with the permission of the UK Government.

Sturgeon is pushing for a fresh vote, arguing the UK Government doesn’t “command the support of people in Scotland”.

The UK’s decision to leave the European Union (EU) following the 2016 ‘Brexit’ referendum has also been cited as a reason for independence. Scottish voters strongly supported remaining in the EU.

Sturgeon says it is “democratically unacceptable” that Scotland was removed from the EU against its voters’ wishes.

The path forward

The Court’s decision doesn’t mean that a referendum can’t be staged, but does mean that the UK Parliament must authorise it before it goes ahead.

Following the Court’s decision, the UK Government’s Secretary of State for Scotland, Alister Jack, said they would “continue to work constructively” with the Scottish Government on all issues they face. He did not say if the Government would support a new independence referendum.

Scotland response

Sturgeon said the ruling “blocks one route to Scotland’s voice being heard”, but said her Government’s campaign for independence would continue.

“Achieving independence is not now just desirable, it is essential if Scotland is to escape the disaster of Brexit, the damage of policies imposed by governments we do not vote for, and the low growth, high inequality economic model that is holding us back.”

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