A rocky route to a Scottish independence referendum


Analysis: Pursuit of a referendum through the courts marks a significant shift for Nicola Sturgeon

When the Scottish National party published its roadmap for a second independence referendum on Sunday, it confirmed what many anticipate will be a central plank of its manifesto for May’s Holyrood elections. If the party wins a majority, as polling indicates it will, and if Westminster ignores that electoral mandate and continues to refuse the necessary transfer of powers, Holyrood will legislate to hold a referendum regardless.

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There are three possible routes to another referendum on Scottish independence. As happened with the 2014 vote, a process previously described as the “gold standard” by Nicola Sturgeon, the UK government could grant a section 30 order under the Scotland Act, 1998, granting Holyrood the competence to legislate for it. The act, which set up the Scottish parliament, states that Holyrood can’t normally legislate on reserved matters, such as the union. But UK prime ministers, most recently Boris Johnson, have repeatedly refused this request.

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