Opinion: The Supreme Court ruling shows what Westminster really thinks of Scotland

It’s time to put that politics degree to good use…

It’s something we’re all extremely familiar with: the good old Scottish independence debate. For over a decade, it’s been the most talked about issue in Scottish politics, and chances are you and everyone you know has some kind of opinion on it.  

Last month, the UK Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the Scottish Government cannot hold a second independence referendum without the permission of the UK government. This is because decisions about the constitution are reserved for the Westminster government, not the Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish administrations.

I’m pretty outraged, and if there’s another independence referendum, students in Scotland will be crucial to deciding the result – so here’s why you should be too, no matter your opinion on the issue.  

Things have changed since last time

The political landscape in Scotland and the UK has changed dramatically since we last went to the polls eight years ago to vote on independence. Above all else, Brexit happened. We overwhelmingly went against the majority, with 62 per cent of Scots voting to remain in the EU. Here in Edinburgh, that figure was even greater, with 73 per cent rejecting Brexit.  

Since then, we’ve been taken out of the EU against our will, and while we’ve yet to see many of the consequences, to name a few of the downsides we’ve seen so far, the value of the pound is down overall, and trade with other countries has become more difficult according to the OBR.

Just in case that wasn’t quite enough, we’re now in the midst of the worst cost of living crisis in living memory, all overseen by a Westminster government which we (surprise!) also didn’t vote for.

Just to clarify, Scotland hasn’t voted for a single Tory government for 67 years.

In spite of this, you’ll hear many people saying that we’ve had our “once in a generation” vote, something which the Supreme Court and the Westminster establishment seem to agree with.  

After unionist parties promised that voting against independence in 2014 would be the only way to safeguard our place in the EU, is it not fair to say that circumstances have changed, and indeed, promises have been broken?  

Westminster might not have our best interests at heart

Coming out of what has been a tough few years with Covid-19, we’re fed up with the constant instability from the UK government. We’ve had three prime ministers in the space of four months, each of them vehemently opposed to giving us the right to choose our own future (flashback to Liz Truss vowing to “ignore” our elected first minister).

It looks to me that those who represent us on the national level in London don’t respect the notion that we are entitled to self-determination, which is literally codified in the UN charter. They, of course, defend against this argument by saying we had our say back in 2014.

What’s more, according to recent opinion polling, the majority of Scots are in favour of a second referendum, and the most recent Scottish Parliament elections saw the election of a pro-indy majority in a system designed to stop overall majorities.  

So, what is it that Westminster is afraid of? That we’ll choose to leave the union and have our best interests seen to, arguably for the first time in decades? The jury is very much out on whether that will be the case. But given all the changes which we’ve (involuntarily!) gone through since we last voted on this issue, I think it’s a massive slap in the face to us Scots to deny our right to even put this to a vote.

The debate surrounding independence is clearly far from over, but should last month’s ruling not serve as a reminder of the disregard it feels like the UK government has towards us when we try to take matters into our own hands? It’s certainly food for thought.

Speaking on behalf of the UK government, PM Rishi Sunak said: “We respect the clear and definitive ruling of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.

“I think that the people of Scotland want us to be working on fixing the major challenges that we collectively face, whether that’s the economy, supporting the NHS or indeed supporting Ukraine.

“Now is the time for politicians to work together and that’s what this government will do.”

First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, said: “A so-called partnership, in which one partner is denied the right to choose a different future, or even to ask itself a question, cannot be described in any way as voluntary, or even a partnerhsip at all.

“This ruling confirms that the notion of the UK as a voluntary parntership of nations, if it ever was a reality, is no longer a reality.

“My expectation in the short term at least, is the UK government will maintain its position of outright democracy denial. That position is, in my view, not just unsustainable, but is also utterly self-defeating.”

The UK government has support in place to help with the cost of living.

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