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Legality of Scotland's independence referendum

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Legality of Scotland's independence referendum


Scotland’s independence referendum has sparked debate about similar movements across Europe. In this edition of U-talk Adèle from Paris asks: “Does Scotland have the right to become independent? And what is the legal status of the referendum that Scotland is to hold?”

The response is from Nathalie Duclos, Senior Lecturer in British Studies at the University of Toulouse II in France: “In a nutshell, Scotland has absolutely the right to become independent for two reasons. First London has always recognised, either implicitly or even recently very explicitly, the right of Scotland to self-determination.

“Why is that? Because the UK perceives itself as a voluntary union of nations. And no nation can be maintained in the union against its will. The second reason is that London has recognised the legitimacy of Scotland to hold a referendum since the Scots voted at an absolute majority for the SNP – the main independence party – in 2011.

“The question raised by Adèle is about the legality of the referendum. This question was settled by London and Edinburgh in October 2012. In October 2012, London and Edinburgh signed an agreement called the ‘Edinburgh Agreement’ which addressed this issue. This agreement transfered the legal competence to hold a referendum from London to Edinburgh.

“Until then, London was the only one to have this legal competence because it’s a constitutional matter.

“London also agreed to respect the issue of the referendum. So if the ‘yes vote’ was to win, there could not be any legal appeal before a court, nor any political appeal since London agreed to respect the results of the poll.

“So in that respect, the Scottish case differs quite a lot from the consultation that the Catalans want to organise a few weeks later, because neither the legitimacy nor the legality of this consultation is recognised by Madrid.”

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