Nicola Sturgeon’s ambitions for a second independence referendum have been thwarted after her government’s lawyers said that a ‘transfer of powers’ would be required to get the measure through Holyrood.
According to legal advice, the Scottish Government can “lawfully” work on independence ideas, including drafting a referendum bill. Nicola Sturgeon’s plans have been put on hold as Scottish Government lawyers suggested ministers might request a “transfer of power” from Westminster under a Section 30 order to hold a second independence referendum.
According to the Scottish Express, the paper released contains restricted excerpts of their legal opinion on the second independence vote.
A submission to former constitution secretary Mike Russell, dated February 26, 2020, questions whether it would be legal for the Scottish Government to carry out referendum preparation work.
The extract read: “The Law Officers in their Opinion of 6 December 2019 confirmed Ministers can lawfully undertake policy development work preparing proposals for independence and in calling for a transfer of power.”
Two officials were drafting legislation to bring forward a second independence referendum, which would cost around £100,000.
The First Minister is in charge of shepherding a potentially contentious law through Holyrood, which might help her achieve her major political goal.
However, the Scottish Government has not to publish the Bill, which would require the new Lord Advocacy, Dorothy Bain QC, to confirm that it would be likely to survive a competence challenge in the UK Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, at a cost of up to £900,000, one senior civil servant and 14 other officials are working on a different referendum blueprint.
The Scottish Government might also ask the Electoral Commission to look into a proposed referendum question, according to the submission.
Despite Boris Johnson’s refusal to hand up the required constitutional authorities, the First Minister has stated that she wants a vote before the end of 2023.
If the Prime Minister maintains his veto, the SNP leader said she will move on with her own Bill and force the UK government to challenge the law in court.
Following a Freedom of Information (FOI) request by The Scotsman, Scotland’s information czar concluded that it was plainly in the public interest to know if attempts to hold another referendum would be legal.
Critics warned that the legal opinion cast doubt on whether a subsequent vote could still take place.