Sturgeon: Westminster's IndyRef block "has never been tested in court"

Written by Mark McLaughlin on 5 April 2017 in News

Liberal Democrats warn the Scottish Government against "wasting taxpayers money" on a court case in pursuit of a second referendum following Nicola Sturgeon's Stanford speech.

Nicola Sturgeon has said Westminster's right to block an independence referendum "has never been tested in court".

The First Minister said legislation which reserves constitutional matters to Westminster is "vague" -- and insisted she is "fairly certain" Scotland will get a second vote.

Sturgeon told an audience at Stanford University on Tuesday that Westminster's refusal to give legal consent is unsustainable and "a holding position".

The Liberal Democrats, which led the former coalition government's constitutional negotiations ahead of the 2014 referendum, immediately seized on the comments as an indication the SNP government could take court action over the right to hold a referendum.

Sturgeon has already pledged to set out the options to progress the will of the Scottish Parliament for a second referendum after the Holyrood recess -- which ends on April 18.

Speaking at Stanford, the First Minister said: “The legislation that set up the Scottish Parliament effectively says that some things remain the responsibility of the United Kingdom government, and everything else is the responsibility of the Scottish Parliament.

“One of the things that it reserved to the United Kingdom government is the constitution, which is quite a vague term.

“It’s never been tested in court, but in 2014 we accepted for there to be a referendum in Scotland -- for the Scottish Parliament to legislate for a referendum —- it required the legal consent of the UK Government and that, in 2014, was conferred through what became known as the Edinburgh Agreement.

“That is the stage we are at now, of seeking that legal consent from the Westminster government to legislate for an independence referendum, which at this stage they are saying they are not willing to give.”

She added: “That is not a sustainable position, frankly, for the UK Government to take. It’s a bit of a holding position.

“There will be another referendum on Scottish independence, of that I am fairly certain.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie immediately hit back, insisting: "The First Minister is seeking support of the courts as she has lost the support of the public.

"Wasting taxpayers money on a court case in pursuit of Nicola Sturgeon's independence obsession will infuriate patients who are waiting for treatment and parents who want a decent education system.

"The First Minister has lost the plot over independence. She needs to recognise there is little demand for yet another independence referendum and that she is losing support every day that she bangs on about independence."

The Scotland Act 1998 states: "Certain aspects of the Constitution are reserved matters. These aspects (include) the Union of the Kingdoms of Scotland and England."

The SNP leader also suggested she will demand a similar franchise to 2014 -- which gave EU citizens living in Scotland a vote but excluded Scots-born citizens living elsewhere.

Sturgeon acknowledged there was "a disappointment and sometimes a sense of anger" amongst disenfranchised ex-pats, but defended her decision to base the 2014 franchise on residency rather than birth.

She added: "Would we change that in future? I suspect not, is the honest answer to that, and I would feel probably as conflicted and as bad, in some respects, the next time as I did the last time."

She said it would be difficult to "draw the line" on the length of time an ex-pat had been away from Scotland before they could be disenfrachised.

"Unless we can find a credible answer to that question - where do you draw the line? - I think it is very difficult to go down that road."

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