U.K. Supreme Court blocks Scotland from holding second independence referendum

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The United Kingdom’s highest court ruled Wednesday that Scotland may not hold a second referendum vote to attain independence.

The U.K. Supreme Court ruled, in a unanimous decision from all 5 judges, that Scotland does not have the power to hold a new referendum on independence without the permission of British parliament.

The judgment is a setback for the Scottish government’s campaign to break away from the United Kingdom and six weeks after lawyers for the pro-independence Scottish administration and the Conservative U.K. government argued their cases at hearings in London.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she would respect the ruling but continue the fight for independence, saying Scotland’s “democratic right to choose our own future” was at stake.

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Scottish flags are held by demonstrators outside the Supreme Court in London, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022. 

Scottish flags are held by demonstrators outside the Supreme Court in London, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022. 
(AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)

Shortly after the verdict, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he believes “the people of Scotland want us to be working on fixing the major challenges that we collectively face.”

“We respect the clear and definitive ruling of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom,” Sunak added. 

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Scottish National Party leader and First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon issues a statement at the Apex Grassmarket Hotel in Edinburgh, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022.

Scottish National Party leader and First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon issues a statement at the Apex Grassmarket Hotel in Edinburgh, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022.
(Jane Barlow/PA via AP)

The semi-autonomous Scottish government wants to hold a referendum next October with the question “Should Scotland be an independent country?”

The U.K. government in London refuses to approve a vote, saying the question was settled in a 2014 referendum that saw Scottish voters reject independence by a margin of 55% to 45%.

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Supporters of Scottish Independence hold a banner outside the Supreme Court in London, Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022. Britain’s Supreme Court is due to rule Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022, on whether Scotland can hold a vote on independence without the consent of the U.K. government, a case with huge implications for the future of the United Kingdom.

Supporters of Scottish Independence hold a banner outside the Supreme Court in London, Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022. Britain’s Supreme Court is due to rule Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022, on whether Scotland can hold a vote on independence without the consent of the U.K. government, a case with huge implications for the future of the United Kingdom.
(AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali, File)

Scotland and England have been politically united since 1707. Scotland has had its own parliament and government since 1999 and makes its own policies on public health, education and other matters. The U.K.-wide government in London controls matters such as defense and fiscal policy.

Wednesday’s ruling cannot be appealed.

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Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report

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