The UK Supreme Court said Thursday it will hold hearings in October on whether Scotland can call an independence referendum without the consent of the British government.
Scotland's pro-independence First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said she intends to hold a fresh vote on independence on 19 October 2023.
But Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government in London says it won’t allow a vote to take place because Scots rejected independence in a 2014 referendum that was billed as a "once-in-a-generation" vote.
A vote held without the approval of the London government would not be legally binding.
Sturgeon’s Scottish government has asked the Supreme Court to rule on whether it has the power to legislate for a consultative referendum, even if the UK government does not give the go-ahead.
The court said Thursday it would hear the arguments from both sides on 11 and 12 October.
Sturgeon and her Scottish National Party argue that Britain’s departure from the European Union and the coronavirus pandemic have upended politics and the economy and that it’s time to revisit the case for independence.
British voters narrowly approved Brexit in a 2016 referendum, but those in Scotland voted strongly to stay in the EU.
Like Wales and Northern Ireland, Scotland has its own parliament and government and makes its own policies on public health, education and other matters. But the UK-wide government in London controls other key areas, such as defence and fiscal policy.
Even if the referendum does go ahead as proposed, a majority vote will not by itself make Scotland independent from the rest of the UK. Sturgeon has said that “for Scotland to become independent following a yes vote, legislation would have to be passed by the UK and Scottish Parliaments.”
Sturgeon's 'mandate for independence poll'
Nicola Sturgeon's Scottish National Party won a landslide victory in the May 2021 parliamentary elections, with an increased share of the vote and just one seat short of an overall majority -- a remarkable result for a party which has been in power since 2007.
They now govern in a pro-independence coalition with the Scottish Greens who are part of government for the first time.
Sturgeon maintains that her party's continued success -- they also won the 2022 local council elections in Scotland with the biggest share of the vote and increased number of seats -- gives her a mandate for a new independence referendum.
The Conservative government in London, Sturgeon has said, "ripped" Scotland out of the EU "against our will" and created the worst cost of living crisis in the G7, with the second worst economic growth in the G20 -- except for Russia.
Over generations, Scotland had paid a price for not being independent, the first minister told lawmakers in Edinburgh recently.
"Now is the time, at this critical moment in history, to debate and decide the future of our country," she said.
"Now is the time for independence."