Hundreds gather at Holyrood after Scottish government loses independence referendum case – UK politics live

Last modified: 08: 59 PM GMT+0

Rallies in Edinburgh and across country after ruling says Scottish parliament cannot hold independence referendum without Westminster approval

A summary of today's developments

  • Nicola Sturgeon has committed to running the next general election as a “de facto referendum” on Scottish independence after the UK supreme court ruled unanimously that her government could not legislate for another vote without Westminster approval.

  • Hundreds of people gathered by Holyrood and the Scottish parliament following the supreme court’s result earlier today. The rally in Edinburgh was one of around 15 across the country and six in Europe, from Rome to Munich and Paris.

  • Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor, confirmed that universal energy support would not be extended past spring 2024 even if bills remain very high. But he said people could save £500 a year if they reduced their annual energy use by 15%, in line with a national target.

  • Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor has asked Treasury officials to look at how much could be raised by closing the non-dom tax loophole. Hunt questioned claims that this would raise £3bn.

  • The privileges committee inquiry into whether Boris Johnson misled the Commons may be delayed until January, after No 10 finally handed over a cache of evidence relating to Partygate four months after it was requested,

  • Rishi Sunak has appointed a top employment barrister, Adam Tolley KC, to investigate formal complaints into his deputy prime minister, Dominic Raab, who has been accused by multiple civil servants of bullying behaviour across several government departments.

  • Boris Johnson’s claim that Germany wanted Ukraine to quickly “fold” after Russia’s invasion has been dismissed as “utter nonsense” by German government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit.

Transport secretary Mark Harper said the rules for carrying liquids in hand luggage are being kept “under review”.

It comes after The Times reported that the rules at airport security, including limits on liquids, are set to be axed in 2024.

The paper said rules which mean passengers must remove laptops from hand luggage, and can only take aboard liquids under 100ml, will go within two years.

Harper told Sky News it was “off the back of some commentary from one of the bosses from an airport”.

He added: “And I am afraid you’ll know our usual practice on security matters is we don’t comment on security matters. I think that is quite important.

“And I am now responsible for setting the security regime for our aviation sector.

“So if there are any changes coming, we will set those out for people in due course.

“But at the moment the regime is as it is with the strict limits on the liquids people can take on planes.”

Rishi Sunak was warned by former Cabinet minister Simon Clarke that failing to build new homes is an existential threat for the Conservatives after rebels forced him to delay planning reforms.

Sunak suffered a blow to his authority on Tuesday when the Government put off a vote expected on Monday after nearly 50 of his MPs signed an amendment.

The proposed changes to the flagship Levelling Up Bill would ban councils from taking centrally set housebuilding targets into account when deciding on planning applications.

Clarke told LBC the amendment risks “kiboshing” housebuilding efforts.

“We’re roughly at a position now where we build about a quarter of a million new homes a year against our target of 300,000,” he said.

“The risk is that this amendment, which is well intentioned I’m sure, and reflects the honest pressures which exist in certain parts of the country around new homes, risks absolutely kiboshing that.

“We’ve got independent estimates that it could kill up to 100,000 of those new starts... take us back down to 140,000 odd per year.

“That will be a disaster economically, it will be wrong socially, because young people won’t be able to afford new homes.”

The 2019 Tory manifesto set a target of building 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s.

Sunak’s official spokesman said: “That commitment remains. When it comes to housing, we want to build more homes in the right places, we are committed to that goal, which is by the mid-2020s.

“We recognise that coming out of the pandemic that is a more challenging situation but we remain committed to that.”

The government has made a U-turn on plans to introduce sweeping powers that would allow ministers to override regulators, including the Bank of England, after multiple warnings that such a move would harm the UK’s global reputation.

The Treasury confirmed on Wednesday evening that it would “not proceed with the intervention power at this time”, noting that the government was “committed” to the independence of City watchdogs, which include the Financial Conduct Authority.

The powers would have given the government the ability to make, amend or revoke rules on matters that ministers deemed to be of “significant public interest”.

Opposition MPs and senior officials, including from the Bank of England, warned that the move would threaten the independence, and international reputation, of the UK and its regulators.

The concern became more poignant after the government’s mini-budget, which shook the confidence of international investors and sent the pound and UK government bonds to record lows.

During the rally in Westminster, SNP MP Tommy Sheppard told the crowd they were protesting to “assert and defend” their right to self-determination “and to say we will not submit, we will not give up, we will not give up our campaign for our independence”.

“The right to choose, the need to choose has never been more essential,” he said.

“You only have to look at what is happening in the United Kingdom at the moment - a government of spivs and millionaires that are recklessly engaged in a right-wing economic experiment that has brought misery and reduced the living standards of millions of ordinary people.”

The MP for Edinburgh East, who is also the party’s spokesman on constitutional affairs, described the court verdict as a “set back” but told protesters they should not be disheartened.

“We know now what we need to do. If the British state will not allow a democratic event such as a referendum to be able to express the will of the people, then we will find other means to allow the people to have their voice,” he said.

The UK government’s approach to Shamima Begum has been “fundamentally misguided”, according to MI6’s former director of counter-terrorism.

Richard Barrett, also a former coordinator of the United Nations’ al-Qaida and Taliban monitoring team, said depriving the then 19-year-old of her British citizenship in 2019 “undermines” the UK’s role in international counter-terrorism.

Barrett and Paul Jordan, the head of responding to violent extremism at the European Institute of Peace, made the comments in a written opinion produced as part of Begum’s appeal against the Home Office’s decision at the request of her lawyers.

In the document provided to the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC), the two experts said there was probably a higher national security risk caused by refusing to bring people back from Syrian camps.

They said: “From a national security perspective, refusing to repatriate individuals who now find themselves in camps in Syria is likely to be significantly more dangerous in the medium to long term than repatriating them and subjecting them to prosecution, rehabilitation and reintegration.”

The experts said the UK’s approach was in “marked contrast” to that of other European countries and the US, which was said to be “particularly concerned about and critical of” the UK’s methods.

In written submissions, Sir James Eadie KC, for the Home Office, said there was “no ‘credible suspicion’ that she was a victim of trafficking or was at real and immediate risk of being trafficked prior to her travel from the UK”.

He said the then home secretary, Sajid Javid, took into account Begum’s age, how she travelled to Syria – including likely online radicalisation – and her activity in Syria when making the decision to remove her British citizenship.

He added that the security services “continue to assess that Begum poses a risk to national security”.


The South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa, said he wanted to “deepen and broaden” links with the UK as he met Rishi Sunak for talks in No 10.

The president was in Downing Street as part of his state visit to the UK, the first by a foreign dignitary in the reign of King Charles.

Ramaphosa said he wanted to discuss trade and investment as well as the transition to a zero-carbon economy.

“For us this is a great opportunity to deepen and broaden our links, links that are historic in many, many ways,” the president said.

The state visit was marked by the UK and South Africa signing an agreement to strengthen their health partnership to help prevent future pandemics.

As part of the agreement, British and South African institutions will collaborate on nine research projects on issues including health systems, mental health, surgery and HIV, according to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).

The two countries are also working together to tackle climate change, with the UK contributing funding to the Just Energy Transition Partnership with South Africa to help it decarbonise its economy.


The “voice of the Scottish people” will not be silenced, Nicola Sturgeon has told independence supporters after the UK’s highest court ruled that Holyrood could not legislate for a referendum.

During a rally outside the Scottish parliament on Wednesday, the first minister said the UK was “not a voluntary partnership of nations”.

“Any partnership in any walk of life that requires one party to seek the consent of another to choose its own future is not voluntary – it is not a partnership at all,” she said.

“And while today’s ruling may create temporary relief on the part of unionist politicians and parties, they should know the hardest questions that have been posed today are questions for them.”

Sturgeon added: “The Westminster establishment may think they can block a referendum, but let me be clear... no establishment, Westminster or otherwise, will ever silence the voice of the Scottish people.”

The SNP leader said that “our job as Scotland’s peaceful, civic, inclusive, internationalist independence movement is the same today as it was yesterday”.

She ended her speech by telling the hundreds gathered outside Holyrood: “Let’s get to it, my friends, let’s win our independence and build the Scotland we know is possible.”


Jeremy Hunt has repeatedly refused to deny that the Treasury briefed a newspaper that the government was considering a closer, Swiss-style, relationship with the EU, while insisting that this had never been the government’s plan.

In sometimes confusing exchanges before the Commons Treasury committee, the chancellor said the UK could never, like Switzerland, be in a position to accept EU regulations, or give way on other areas such as freedom of movement.

However, Hunt did cite the Swiss border with the EU as a possible model for future UK arrangements with the bloc in terms of using technology to make trade easier.

At the start of Hunt’s first appearance before the committee, Harriett Baldwin, the Tory MP who now chairs it, asked him if the Treasury was the source for a Sunday Times story last weekend that said “senior government figures” were considering a Swiss-type approach.


The former Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson said there was “no democratic mandate” for the SNP to demand another referendum.

She claimed there were “lots of people” who believed Nicola Sturgeon’s party “haven’t held up their end of the bargain” by respecting the previous independence vote.

“If the result had gone the other way in 2014, if 55% of Scots had said they wanted to leave the United Kingdom and only 45% said they wanted to stay rather than the other way about, then we would have left already,” she told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme.

“But they didn’t. A majority of Scots said that they wanted to stay. So there’s no democratic mandate here for the SNP. There is no suggestion that they were denied, they just lost.”

Davidson added it would be “hubris on a pretty grand scale” for Sturgeon to claim she gets to decide what the next general election is fought on.


A clear rhetorical theme from the pro-independence rally this evening is Scotland being “trapped” in a not-so-voluntary union, writes Rachael Revesz.

Tommy Sheppard, the SNP MP, has taken the train from London to speak at the rally. “We don’t have to be enslaved to this decaying, post Brexit isolationist union any more,” he said.

Neale Hanvey, the Alba MP, said: “the UK’s state apparatus has been exhausted. We are hostages in a union that denies democracy. It’s completely unacceptable. It has to be challenged. It will be challenged. And we will do that.”

The supreme court said one factor in its ruling was that Scotland was not a colony, but Hanvey argued Scottish people were “cold and hungry”, with closing food banks and Scotland not receiving revenue that “flows into Westminster” from oil and gas companies.

Speakers emphasised that the movement was cross-party and celebrated across Europe.

Valentina Servera Clavell, who works for the European parliament, said the Scottish people should be inspired by the Catalonians, who were recently ruled by a dictatorship.

“Our language survived. Our nation survived,” she said. Looking around the crowds, she added: “This is how we win.”


Seven former home secretaries have written to Rishi Sunak urging him to end the delay in introducing a new counter-terrorism law in the wake of the Manchester Arena bombing.

Nicknamed Martyn’s law after one of the victims of the 2017 attack, Martyn Hett, the new rules would require venues and local authorities to have preventive action plans against terror attacks.

The former Labour home secretary David Blunkett said he and six other ex-home secretaries had written to Sunak to urge him to bring forward the legislation without further delay.

Lord Blunkett told the House of Lords: “Seven former home secretaries have written today to the prime minister asking for this matter to be taken expeditiously, given that its 18 months since the end of the consultation.

“I’m only slightly being facetious when I ask the minister if he’ll make sure the prime minister gets the letter, because when Tony Blair’s dad wrote to Downing Street, signing himself ‘love Pop’, he got a letter back saying ‘Dear Mr Pop’, so perhaps we can make sure that the letter reaches Rishi Sunak.”


Ian Blackford said Westminster was “denying democracy” by not allowing a second Scottish referendum.

The SNP’s Westminster leader said the Scottish government had to “seek other alternatives” to “drive home” that the people of Scotland have the “sovereign right” to determine their own future.

“We’re in the position that we’re in because Westminster’s denying democracy, is refusing to respect the independence majority that is there in the Scottish parliament,” he told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme.

“So of course we have to seek other alternatives that we can drive home that the people of Scotland have got the right, the sovereign right, to determine their own future.”


Julia Stryl, 52, believes the result today was not the one Westminster hoped for, writes Rachael Revesz.

“They hoped the supreme court would be neutral. Now it’s Westminster that’s clearly blocking the democratic right to independence for the Scottish people.”

Brexit is clearly a deciding factor for many campaigners here today, including Elise Tallaron, who is reading a solidarity statement from the podium at the same time as other rallies across the continent.

“I regret voting no in 2014. I didn’t think it was my place,” she tells me. Elise is French but has lived here since 1996. She is now treasurer for the Yes for EU movement.

The first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, takes the stage to strong applause, and the counter-protest’s tannoy cannot block her out. She says from the podium: “Today it has been clarified that the UK is not a voluntary partnership of nations.”

She says the result will create only temporary relief for unionists. “No establishment, Westminster or otherwise, will silence the voice of the Scottish people.”


Hundreds gather at Holyrood after Scottish government loses independence referendum case

Hundreds of people are gathered by Holyrood and the Scottish parliament following the supreme court’s result earlier today, writes Rachael Revesz.

The rally in Edinburgh is one of around 15 across the country and six in Europe, from Rome to Munich and Paris.

Before the speeches begin, groups of bagpipers warm up their instruments, occasionally stopping for a brief cigarette break.

The Proclaimers blasts from a stereo by the stage. Scottish flags, yes signs and placards strung with lights are being waved against the darkening sky.

A small but lively counter-protest is taking place across the road from unionists, the occasional driver yelling “Tory scum!” in their direction.

It’s one of the coldest nights of the year so far yet that’s not stopping many people from protesting this evening, some of whom have not campaigned since 2014.

One of them is retiree Jim Brack, who said the movement of late had “perhaps become a bit complacent”. But he says the result today has been a “win-win” and has revitalised independence supporters.

“It [the supreme court] has highlighted we don’t have free will,” he said.


Hunt urges people to cut their fuel use as he confirms universal energy support will end in spring 2024

Towards the end of his appearance at the Commons Treasury committee, Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor, confirmed that universal energy support would not be extended past spring 2024 even if bills remain very high.

But he said people could save £500 a year if they reduced their annual energy use by 15%, in line with a national target. He told the committee:

In the long run we’re going need everyone to help us crack this problem if we’re not going to have a huge additional burden on taxpayers which ultimately will lead to the kind of high taxes I certainly don’t believe are desirable in the long run.

We will always be there to help poorer households, the way we do that will change.

But for most people we need you to play your part in reducing our energy dependency on what Putin choses to do in Ukraine. That’s why we’ve got this national ambition to reduce energy consumption by 15% …

We are saying to people that in the end everyone is going to have to take responsibility for their energy bills and they’re going to have to think about how they’re going to reduce their energy consumption.

That is all from me for today. My colleague Nadeem Badshah is taking over now.


Ian Blackford asking his urgent question on the supreme court judgment
Ian Blackford asking his urgent question on the supreme court judgment. Photograph: Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament


My colleague Libby Brooks has written an analysis of where the supreme court ruling leaves Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP. This is how it starts.

The day began with one question settled unequivocally – no, the Scottish parliament cannot legislate to hold a second independence referendum without the UK government’s approval. But it ends with a new tranche of imponderables around the constitutional question, none of them likely to be resolved in the near future.

At her hastily convened press conference, not two hours after the supreme court gave its judgment on the legality of her proposed referendum bill, Sturgeon told reporters that further detail on her plan to put the independence question to the electorate at the next general election was slight because of the need for time to reflect and discuss as a party.

But the inescapable conclusion is that this “de facto referendum” – a gamble she herself admits she doesn’t want to take – presents a morass of procedural and political complications that seem unlikely to get her any closer to her ultimate aim: Scottish independence.

And here is the full article.

The Treasury committee hearing is just ending now.

Harriett Baldwin, the chair, asks Jeremy Hunt for an assurance that he will continue to publish OBR reports twice a year, alongside big fiscal events, and that he will not try to avoid publishing an OBR forecast, as Kwasi Kwarteng did.

Hunt does give that assurance.

And that’s it. The hearing is over.

Independence supporters gathering for a rally outside the Scottish parliament at Holyrood this evening.
Independence supporters gathering for a rally outside the Scottish parliament at Holyrood this evening. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod/The Guardian

Asked about fuel duty, Hunt says the Office for Budget Responsibilites made assumptions about what might happen next year. But the decision as to what actually will happen has not been taken, he says.

The OBR assumed that fuel duty revenue would raise by £5.7bn.

Asked about the Tory rebellion over housing targets, Hunt says this is a matter for Michael Gove, the levelling up secretary.

But he says he is very aware of the problems that young people are having getting on the housing ladder. And he says he is concerned that incentives do not work in such a way as to encourage house building.

Angela Eagle (Lab) asks what impact all the political instablity created by the Tories this year has had on the UK’s economic prospects and international reputation.

Hunt says he wishes this had not happened. But he says he does not accept that has been the primary cause of the country’s economic problems.

From the Daily Mail’s Jason Groves

Jeremy Hunt says it's wrong to blame Liz Truss's mini-Budget for the UK's economic problems - and notes that growth will be highest in the G7 this year. Labour's Angela Eagle responds: 'Are you suggesting we do this every year as a growth plan?'

— Jason Groves (@JasonGroves1) November 23, 2022


Hunt says he hopes Patricia Hewitt's health review will lead to reduction of number of targets in NHS

Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor, has just told the Treasury committee that he hopes the health review being carried out by Patricia Hewitt, the former Labour health secretary, leads to a reduction in the number of targets in the NHS. He said:

I have a concern – it’s no secret because I’ve written about it publicly many times – that we have more targets for the NHS than any other healthcare system in the world. I think that actually stops the NHS being efficient.

Hunt says he has asked Treasury officials to look at how much could be raised by abolishing non-dom status

Here is the quote from Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor, when he told Labour’s Siobhain McDonagh that he had asked Treasury officials to look at how much could be raised by closing the non-dom tax loophole. (See 3.56pm.) Hunt questioned claims that this would raise £3bn. He said:

I’ve asked for [how much might be raised] to be looked at. My point was different actually. It is that I understand that non-doms pay in tax ... all the taxes that they do pay, around £8bn of tax a year. So I want to make sure that wealthy foreigners pay as much tax in this country as possible.

Ireland has a non-dom regime. France has a non-dom regime. These are people who are highly mobile, and I want to make sure that we don’t do anything that inadvertently loses us more money than we raise.


As well as going to war with his Tory colleagues who are trying to scrap mandatory house building targets (see 1.50pm), Simon Clarke, the former levelling up secretary, is now trying to overturn the ban on new onshore wind developments which Rishi Sunak supports. Lara Spirit from the Times has the details.

NEW: Former cabinet minister Simon Clarke has tabled an amendment to the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill to overturn the ban on new onshore wind

Tells me: "If we're going to have some anti-growth amendments on the bill we might as well have some pro-growth ones too"

— Lara Spirit (@lara_spirit) November 23, 2022

Here's his amendment👇

— Lara Spirit (@lara_spirit) November 23, 2022

Q: What provision have you made for public sector pay in your settlements with departments?

Hunt says those discussions are still ongoing.

Q: Will you meet unions to discuss pay?

Hunt says he strongly believes in engaging with unions. But it is for the relevant secretaries of state to do that, he says.

Q: Will you meet with the TUC?

Hunt says he is happy to meet with the head of the TUC

Siobhain McDonagh (Lab) asks how much raising taxes for non-doms would raise.

Hunt says he has asked officials about that. He says Labour put the figure at £3.6bn.

It is not just Labour, says McDonagh. She quotes other figures, suggesting £3bn, or £3.2bn might be raised.

Hunt says his concern is how much might be lost if non-doms were not in the UK. He says they contribute £8bn in tax.

Q: Do you support a growth target?

Hunt says he does not favour a precise target. But he agrees it is important to increase the growth rate.

Q: Do you want to get taxes down in the long term?

Absolutely, says Hunt.

But he says, given that he was raising taxes by £25bn, it was not the time to say that.

Ultimately, though, he wants to get taxes down.

He says it is particularly important to reduce the taxes that people have to pay before they make any profit.

Back at the Treasury committee Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor, says the UK needs a long-term growth rate closer to 3% than 2%.

That will require structural changes, like investment in skills, he says.

That is why Michael Barber is doing a skills review.

Having a stable source of cheap energy is also important, he says. That is why Sizewell C is going ahead.

And he says there is a long-term plan for the UK to become “the world’s next Silicon Valley”.


German government dismisses Boris Johnson's claim it wanted Ukraine to 'fold' as 'nonsense'

Boris Johnson’s claim that Germany wanted Ukraine to quickly “fold” after Russia’s invasion has been dismissed as “utter nonsense” by Berlin, PA Media reports. PA says:

The former prime minister, who was in office when Vladimir Putin’s troops invaded in February, said Germany wanted Ukraine to quickly lose, rather than have a lengthy war, for “all sorts of sound economic reasons”.

But German government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit on Wednesday sharply refuted his comment.

“We know that the very entertaining former prime minister always has a unique relationship with the truth; this case is no exception,” he said, according to German media.

Berlin swiftly decided to send arms to Ukraine after Moscow launched its invasion, chancellor Olaf Scholz’s spokesman said, noting the “facts speak against [Johnson’s] claims”.

Switching to English, Hebestreit added: “This is utter nonsense.”

Germany’s ambassador to the UK tweeted the official’s rejection of Mr Johnson’s claim, which will not have helped UK-German relations.

Johnson earlier told US broadcaster CNN: “The Germans, for all sorts of sound economic reasons, really didn’t want it to ... I’ll tell you a terrible thing - the German view was at one stage that if it were going to happen, which would be a disaster, then it would be better for the whole thing to be over quickly and for Ukraine to fold.

“I couldn’t support that. I thought that was a disastrous way of looking at it, but I could understand why they thought and felt as they did.”

The ex-PM also said France was in denial “right up until the last moment” when Russian forces crossed the border.

“This thing was a huge shock. We could see the Russian battalion tactical groups amassing but different countries had very different perspectives,” he said.

“Be in no doubt that the French were in denial right up until the last moment.”

This is from Miguel Berger, the German ambassador to the UK.

"We know that the very entertaining former Prime Minister always has a unique relationship with the truth. This case is also no exception."

🇩🇪 Government spokesperson @RegSprecher rejects @BorisJohnson’s claims about Germany’s position regarding Russia’s war in Ukraine.

— Miguel Berger (@GermanAmbUK) November 23, 2022


Back at the Treasury committee, and Jeremy Hunt says he has broadly protected capital spending in cash terms. But it is not going up by as much as was planned.

Partygate hearings could be put back to new year after No 10 delay

The privileges committee inquiry into whether Boris Johnson misled the Commons may be delayed until January, after No 10 finally handed over a cache of evidence relating to Partygate four months after it was requested, my colleagues Rowena Mason and Aubrey Allegretti report.

Q: What was your thinking regarding delaying the introduction of the cap on adult social care costs?

Hunt says he supports the Dilnot reforms.

But he looked at the pressures on the NHS caused by the pandemic. There are 7 million people on waiting lists. And those waiting lists cannot be reduced if delayed discharges are still a problem.

So the government decided to prioritise reducing delayed discharges, he says.

He says there is an “extreme situation'” facing the NHS and the care system. That is why he thought it was right to address this in the autumn statement.

Hunt denies giving briefing that would have justified Sunday Times saying government wanted Swiss-style Brexit deal

Jeremy Hunt is giving evidence to the Treasury committee now.

He starts by talking about the Sunday Times story suggesting the government wants a Swiss-style Brexit deal.

He says he does not want to move away from the TCA, the Brexit trade and cooperation agreement. He says that has been his position as chancellor.

But he does think technology could allow checks to be carried out more easily.

Q: But did anything you say lead to the Sunday Times story?

Hunt stresses his support for the TCA.

Q: But you can’t rule out setting the hares running that led to that story?

Hunt repeats his point about not saying anything that would justify a claim that the government wanted to renegotiate the trade agreement.

He does not deny speaking to the Sunday Times before the story ran.

UPDATE: When first asked about the Sunday Times story, Hunt said:

We do not support, we would not contemplate, I do not support, I have never contemplated, any agreement which means moving away from the TCA, that means we are not negotiating or deciding the regulations that we want as sovereign equals, paying unnecessary money to the EU or indeed compromising on freedom of movement. That has always been my position as chancellor.

Harriett Baldwin (Con), the chair, said: “It sounds like the hares that suddenly set off onto the front page of The Sunday Times may have started their run from the Treasury.”

Hunt said he and the Treasury were not the source of “any suggestion that we want to move away from the TCA”. He said:

With respect to the story in the Sunday Times, if you’re saying was the Treasury, was I, the source for any suggestion we should seek to renegotiate the TCA to move it towards an agreement more like the agreement with Switzerland, the answer is no.

If you are saying do I believe that we could remove the physical barriers to trade in the way that happens on the Franco-Swiss border, the Norway-Sweden border, maybe in a way that is relevant for the Northern Ireland protocol issues ... that’s been my public position for some time.

I can rule out any suggestion that it has ever been the government’s intention to move away from the TCA, to move to a situation where we don’t have full control of our regulations, to compromise [on] freedom of movement - I can absolutely say that has never been our position and we have not set those hares running, no.


Jeremy Hunt to face questions on autumn statement from Commons Treasury committee

Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor, is to give evidence to the Commons Treasury committee at 3pm on the autumn statement. A chancellor normally gives evidence after a budget, or a budget-type event, and this is likely to be a wide-ranging (and, hopefully, revealing) encounter.

It is also the first big outing for Harriett Baldwin, the new chair of the committee.

The committee wanted to hear from Kwasi Kwarteng after his mini-budget, but he declined to attend. In his short time as chancellor he didn’t get to speak to the committee at all.


Braverman 'doesn't understand asylum policy', says Cooper after home secretary struggles with question at committee

Suella Braverman, the home secretary, was giving evidence to the Commons home affairs committee this morning and she was skewered by a fellow Tory, Tim Loughton, on asylum policy.

Braverman has said she wants to ban people who enter the UK illegally by crossing the Channel in small boats from claiming asylum. The government has already increased the penalties for people entering the UK illegally in the Nationality and Borders Act.

Asked how people should claim asylum in the UK, ministers routinely say they should use the safe routes that are available. Braverman used the same line at the committee this morning.

But Loughton asked Braverman to explain what safe routes would be available to a teenager from Africa fleeing civil war and religious persecution. Braverman was unable to answer. Eventually she passed the question to Matthew Rycroft, the permanent secretary at the Home Office, who said that perhaps the UNHCR might be able to help. But he went on: “But I accept that there are some countries where it would not be possible.”

Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, said the exchange showed that Braverman “doesn’t understand her own asylum policy”.

Watch this. Clear Suella Braverman doesn’t understand her own asylum policy

Since Govt failed to get replacement for Dublin Agreemnt theres no safe legal route for lone child refugee to rejoin relative in UK. She’s effectively saying they need to make dangerous journey. Shameful

— Yvette Cooper (@YvetteCooperMP) November 23, 2022


Sunak appoints lawyer to examine Raab bullying allegations

Rishi Sunak has appointed a top employment barrister to investigate formal complaints into his deputy prime minister, Dominic Raab, who has been accused by multiple civil servants of bullying behaviour across several government departments, my colleagues Pippa Crerar and Henry Dyer report.

Calls for Scotland’s pro-independence movement to put aside differences and unite after judges said Holyrood could not hold a second independence referendum were made outside the supreme court by an MP from a party that has become home to former Scottish National party (SNP) members.

Neale Hanvey, formerly a member of the SNP but now an MP for the Alba party, said the ruling was a defeat in one respect but was also a helpful clarifying point to demonstrate that “all avenues within the union had now been exhausted”. He said:

Now we must unite as a movement. So we need to stop the charade or one more mandate, let’s vote for us again for another mandate for the SNP, because the reality is, there are people in the Conservative party who support independence, there are people in the Lib Dems who support independence, there are many members in the Labour party who support independence, and of course there is the Alba party.

The reality is that many of them won’t vote for Nicola Sturgeon’s party because of some of the very controversial policies she has brought forward.

Hanvey said it was important to “decouple” the question of an independence plebiscite from the SNP.

Alba was formed in March 2021 by the former Scottish first minister and SNP leader Alex Salmond, and has attracted a number of MPs from Scotland’s governing party amid fissures in the independence movement around referendum strategy, centralisation, reform of transgender rights and the question of Salmond’s role in politics itself.

How a referendum now happens was “challenging”, Hanvey admitted. He said a “wildcard” poll risked running into the same problems as faced by the Catalan independence movement, while a plebiscite fought on party lines would divide the pro-independence vote. He went on:

What we need is a constitutional convention where we put our differences to one side and prioritise Scotland. We have to find a way to come back together as we did in 2014 and settle on a strategy that is solely focused on delivering independence. If that is ignored then we could take the case to the international community.

Neale Hanvey
Neale Hanvey Photograph: Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament/Reuters


Nicola Sturgeon at her press briefing this morning.
Nicola Sturgeon at her press briefing this morning. Photograph: Russell Cheyne/Reuters

Labour does not support another referendum on Scottish independence, Keir Starmer’s spokesperson told journalists at a post-PMQs briefing. The spokesperson said:

Our position is very clear. We don’t support there being a referendum, we’re not going to be doing deals with the SNP going into the election in any form or coming out of the election in any form.

The official said the question of more powers for devolved nations and English regions was “always something that is up for debate or discussion” but was “a very separate question to the one of independence”.


During the urgent question in the Commons on the supreme court ruling, Alister Jack, the Scottish secretary, was repeatedly asked how another referendum independence could happen, if the Scots continued to vote for parties that wanted one and Westminster continued to refuse.

Jack’s main response was to insist that the Scottish government did not have a mandate for a referendum. (See 12.47pm.)

But at another point he suggested a referendum could happen if there was consensus support for one. He said:

The route to a referendum is when there is consensus between governments, across political parties, and across civic Scotland, as there was in 2014.

That is not the case now. Now the UK government wants to focus on the Scottish economy, on creating freeports, on supporting people and the cost of living, and getting on with the day job, which is what I think the Scottish government should do.

Jack said the UK government would have to be part of that consensus – and currently it is firmly opposed to a referendum.


These are from BBC Scotland’s political editor, Glenn Campbell, on Nicola Sturgeon’s plan for an SNP special conference to discuss the “general election as de facto independence referendum” strategy. (See 1.19pm.)

FM has recommitted to trying to using an election as if it were a referendum

However, leaving details to SNP conference has some potential for wriggle room, should they want it

What if they prefer to use a Holyrood election for example?

— Glenn Campbell (@GlennBBC) November 23, 2022

Not saying they will water down the ‘election as referendum plan’, just that they could

— Glenn Campbell (@GlennBBC) November 23, 2022


Former levelling up secretary Simon Clarke says Tories will be doomed electorally if they block housebuilding

Simon Clarke, who was levelling up secretary under Liz Truss, but sacked by Rishi Sunak, has urged the government to face down the rebellion by Tory MPs who are demanding an end to housebuilding targets for councils.

Here is our overnight story on the rebellion, by my colleague Jessica Elgot.

Clarke says if the Tories do not support housebuilding, they will be doomed electorally.

“Young people aren’t stupid. Whatever Conservative MPs may say, they can hear the music: that there’s nothing on offer for them. Why should they vote Tory if the Party shuts them out from ownership and capital?”

Spot on from @PaulGoodmanCH. We have to build homes.

— Simon Clarke MP (@SimonClarkeMP) November 23, 2022

There are important debates about the type of homes and the incentives that we can create for communities to support them being built - just as with other critical infrastructure. But our inability to build homes is a politically-driven problem, and not inevitable.

— Simon Clarke MP (@SimonClarkeMP) November 23, 2022

We also have to recognise this is an issue where Conservatives bear a heavy responsibility. Politicians of all parties play games with this. But we are meant to be the party of opportunity, and we are pulling up the ladder for everyone under 40.

— Simon Clarke MP (@SimonClarkeMP) November 23, 2022

If you want to see what the future of the Conservatives is when we don’t build homes, look at London. Our collapsing vote in the capital is at least in part because you can’t make the case for popular Conservatism if you can’t afford to buy, or even rent.

— Simon Clarke MP (@SimonClarkeMP) November 23, 2022

The flip side, why can we win in areas like Teesside? It’s at least in part because if you are a nurse or a teacher, you can still afford a proper family home. This isn’t rocket science - it’s economics and politics 101.

— Simon Clarke MP (@SimonClarkeMP) November 23, 2022

At the post-PMQs lobby briefing, the PM’s spokesperson said the government remained committed to the target of building 300,000 homes a year. He said:

That commitment remains. When it comes to housing, we want to build more homes in the right places, we are committed to that goal, which is by the mid-2020s.

We recognise that coming out of the pandemic that is a more challenging situation but we remain committed to that.


No 10 says it does not accept SNP's claim next general election in Scotland now de facto independence referendum

At the post-PMQs lobby briefing, the prime minister’s press secretary said the government would not accept the SNP argument that the next general election will be a de facto vote on independence in Scotland. Asked if Rishi Sunak agreed with that plan, the press secretary replied:

I don’t think that is the position of the UK government. The supreme court’s decision today has been very clear.

Sturgeon says SNP will launch 'major campaign in defence of Scottish democracy' - summary of her response to court ruling

Here is the full text of the statement that Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, delivered at her press conference in response to the supreme court judgment.

And here are the key quotes.

  • Sturgeon restated her determination to treat the general election as a de facto referendum on independence. She said:

Unless we give up on democracy – which I, for one, am not prepared to do – we must and will find another democratic, lawful and constitutional means by which the Scottish people can express their will.

In my view, that can only be an election.

The next national election scheduled for Scotland is the UK general election, making it both the first and the most obvious opportunity to seek what I described back in June as a de facto referendum.

As with any proposition in any party manifesto in any election, it is up to the people how they respond. No party can dictate the basis on which people cast their votes.

But a party can be – indeed should be – crystal clear about the purpose for which it is seeking popular support.

In this case, for the SNP, it will be to establish – just as in a referendum – majority support in Scotland for independence, so that we can then achieve independence.

  • Sturgeon said the SNP would hold a special conference to decide how the party would treat the election as a de facto independence referendum. She said:

Now that the supreme court’s ruling is known, and a de facto referendum is no longer hypothetical, it is necessary to agree the precise detail of the proposition we intend to put before the country – for example, the form our manifesto will take, the question we will pose, how we will seek to build support above and beyond the SNP, and what steps we will take to achieve independence if we win.

As you would expect, I have views on all of that.

However, given the magnitude of these decisions for the SNP, the process of reaching them is one that the party as a whole must be fully and actively involved in.

I can therefore confirm that I will be asking our national executive committee to convene a special party conference in the new year to discuss and agree the detail of a proposed de facto referendum.

  • She said the SNP would now launch “a major campaign in defence of Scottish democracy”. She said:

For we should be in no doubt – as of today, democracy is what is at stake.

This is no longer just about whether or not Scotland becomes independent – vital though that decision is.

It is now more fundamental – it is now about whether or not we have the basic democratic right to choose our own future.

  • Sturgeon said the judgment showed the UK was no longer a voluntary partnership of nations. She said:

Until now, it has been understood and accepted – by opponents of independence as well as by its supporters – that the UK is a voluntary partnership of nations.

The Royal Commission on Scottish Affairs back in 1950 said this: “Scotland is a nation and voluntarily entered into the Union as a partner”.

That sentiment was echoed nearly 60 years later by the cross-party Calman Commission, which described the UK as “a voluntary union and partnership”.

And it was reinforced in 2014 by the Smith Commission, which made clear that “nothing in its report prevented Scotland becoming an independent country should the people of Scotland so choose”.

What today’s ruling tells us, however, is that the Scotland Act does not in fact uphold that long held understanding of the basis of the relationships that constitute the UK – on the contrary, it shatters that understanding completely.

Let’s be blunt: a so-called partnership in which one partner is denied the right to choose a different future – or even to ask itself the question — cannot be described in any way as voluntary or even a partnership at all.

Nicola Sturgeon holding a press briefing about the supreme court ruling this morning.
Nicola Sturgeon holding a press briefing about the supreme court ruling this morning. Photograph: Jane Barlow/PA


The UK transport secretary, Mark Harper, will meet the RMT union leader, Mick Lynch, for the first time for urgent talks to try to call off rail strikes over the festive period, my colleagues Aletha Adu and Joe Middleton report.


Joanna Cherry (SNP) asks, if the Scots continue to vote for parties that want a referendum, what is the democratic route for holding one.

Jack says he does not accept that a majority of Scots are voting for a referendum.

Back in the UQ Sir Bernard Jenkin (Con) suggests the SNP prefer to campaign for a referendum that will never take place because that allows them “to distract attention from the failures of the Scottish government”. Alister Jack, the Scottish secretary, says that is a point made by many commentators in Scotland.

Towards the end of PMQs Theresa May, the former Tory PM, asked a question about Scotland. She said:

Scotland is a proud nation with a unique heritage. It is a valued member of our family of nations, a union of people bound through the generations by shared interests.

Does [Rishi Sunak] agree with me that this morning’s supreme court decision gives the Scottish nationalists, the SNP, the opportunity for once to put the people of Scotland first and end its obsession with breaking us apart?

Sunak said May put it very well.


Ian Murray, the shadow Scotland secretary, says there is no majority in Scotland for independence. But there is no mandate for the status quo either, he says.


Scottish secretary Alister Jack rejects claims SNP has mandate to hold independence referendum

Jack is responding to Blackford. He says he does not accept the claim that the 2001 election gave the SNP a mandate for a referendum. He says less than a third of people voted for the SNP.

UPDATE: Jack said:

This idea there was a mandate delivered in 2021 in the Holyrood elections is completely misleading.

As the first minister herself said in an interview in the Herald - and this is when she thought that the first minister and previous leader Alex Salmond was gaming the system with his party Alba - she very clearly said that parties should stand on both the list and the first-past-the-post constituency system.

The Greens did not fulfil that, neither did Alba.

So, let’s be clear, in the 22 Holyrood elections, the so-called mandate, less than one-third of the Scottish electorate voted for the SNP.


Ian Blackford, the SNP’s leader at Westminster, is responding to Jack.

He says the “thoughtless triumphalism” of unionists will not last long.

He says the Scotland Act should be amended to say the Scottish people have the right to choose their future.

A partnership where one side does not have the right to choose its future cannot be described as a partnership, he says.

Since 2014 the SNP has won eight elections in a row.

How many times do the people of Scotland have to vote for a referendum before they get it?

The more a referendum is denied, the more likely Scotland is to vote for independence when it gets a chance.

He says the Scots have not voted for the Conservatives since 1955.

Alister Jack responds to urgent question on supreme court

Alister Jack, the Scottish secretary, is responding to the urgent question about the supreme court judgment.

He says it is important now to move on from constitutional issues, and to now focus on the issues that matter to people.

PMQs - snap verdict

Rishi Sunak comes across as a managerial politician with little interest or aptitute for the rough and tumble of party politics. That was what the Tories needed when the financial markets were in panic mode, but it meant that he was ill equipped for PMQs (an arena where partisan mudslinging often prevails) and in his early encounters with Keir Starmer he flounded.

But Sunak also seems to be someone who can learn when he needs to. Today he was much, much better, and he more or less held Starmer to a draw. You can tell it went well because he did not need to mention Jeremy Corbyn.

He attacked Starmer for Labour’s links to the union. He accused Starmer of not reading in full the OECD report he was quoting, and labelled him an opportunist – a charge which registers with focus groups, after Boris Johnson labelled Starmer “Captain Hindsight”, even though Starmer is no more opportunist than most senior politicians. And he claimed that his leadership campaign in the summer was more honest than Starmer’s in 2020 (probably true – but also the reason Sunak lost in the summer). These were all jibes that landed.

But, of course, Starmer had jibes of his own, and they were effective too. He taunted Sunak over his wife’s non-dom status, and over the revelation that he has private GP healthcare, and what made these more than just personal digs were the claims that he was able to make about how taxing non-doms would fund thousands more nurses. Sunak had a defence (he quoted Ed Balls saying taxing non-doms might not raise any revenue for the government at all), but people watching were more likely to side with Starmer on this than with Sunak. (At least, that is what our recent focus group report suggests.) Starmer’s point also refuted the claim from Sunak that Labour does not have a plan.

Ultimately Sunak was still on the defensive, because the government record he is defending is now so weak, but today Sunak v Starmer felt much more evenly matched than it was.

Rishi Sunak at PMQs
Rishi Sunak at PMQs Photograph: Jessica Parker/Parliament


Chris Law (SNP) says Sunak said in the summer we live in a union, which functions by consent. The Scots have voted to back a referendum. So does Sunak accept Scottish democracy?

Sunak says he wants to work with the Scottish government on what matters to the Scots.

Allan Dorans (SNP) says the SNP have won eight recent elections. What right does the government have to deny a referendum?

Sunak says he respects the decision of the court.

Ed Davey, the Lib Dem leader, asks the government to introduce a mortgage protection fund, paid for by reversing tax cuts on the banks. That is a Lib Dem policy.

Sunak says he is sorry to hear about the constituent’s case mentioned by Davey. He says the government is tackling inflation, and has offered mortgage support for people on benefits.


Gareth Johnson (Con) says Just Stop Oil should be a proscribed organisation. These people are criminals, he says.

Sunak says the police have the government’s full support in dealing with these protests. The public order bill will give them the powers they need, he says.

Sunak cannot deny democracy to Scotland, says SNP's Blackford

Ian Blackford, the SNP leader at Wesminster, says the supreme court has clarified a point of law, but “the very point of democracy in this union is now at stake”. He says the PM can oppose independence. But he cannot deny democracy to Scotland. He say the idea of the UK as a voluntary partnership of nations is now dead.

Sunak says he welcomes the definitive ruling. Now it is time for politicians to work together.

Blackford says the PM cannot respect the rule of law but deny democracy.

The Scottish parliament has the biggest majority for independence. What right does Sunak, who has no mandate, have to deny democracy?

Sunak says the Scottish parliament is one of the most powerful devolved bodies in the world.

He met Nicola Sturgeon to discuss delivering for Scotland, he says.


Theresa May bobbing for a question at PMQs…

— Aubrey Allegretti (@breeallegretti) November 23, 2022

Starmer says business leaders say the government does not have a plan. And the government will not push planning reform through because Sunak is too weak to take on his party.

Sunak says when he stood for leader, he said what the country needed to hear. But when Starmer stood for leader, he told his party what it wanted to hear.

Starmer says taxing non-doms would pay for training 15,000 more doctors. He says that means we would not have to live in a society where people would have to go to private GPs.

Sunak says Starmer doesn’t have a plan for the economy.


Starmer says if the Tories had grown the economy like Labour, the government would have tens of billions more in tax revenue. He says the non-dom tax would raise £3.6bn. How many more nurses would that pay for?

Sunak says the government is already training more nurses. He quotes the NHS England chief executive saying that.


Starmer says a typical household faces a tax increase of £1,400. Contrast that with a super-wealthy non-dom, living here but holding their income overseas. How much more has he asked them to pay?

Sunak says Labour had 13 years to address that, and did nothing. It was the Conservative government that tightened the rule.

But Labour’s policy would end up costing Britain money, he says. And those are not his words, but the words of a former shadow chancellor (Ed Balls).


Starmer asks why the UK will be the first country into recession, and the last out?

Sunak says the OECD report cited by Starmer supports the UK’s fiscal plan. He says Starmer would have known that if he had read the whole thing. But he is not interested in substance; he is an opportunist.

In four weeks, he has strengthened the economy, he says. But what has Starmer done?.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the speaker, says Sunak seems to be breaking a promise he made to Hoyle to give short answers.


Keir Starmer starts by saying it is unacceptable that gay football fans cannot express their affection for the people they love at the world cup.

He says the UK faces the lowest growth of any country in the OECD over the next two years. Why?

Sunak says currently the UK is top of the G7 for growth. If Labour is serious about growth, it should tell its union friends to call of the strikes.

Jonathan Gullis (Con) says people do not get mental health help quickly enough. Will the PM deliver on his promise, as chancellor, to get mental health nurses into surgeries.

Sunak says all 1,250 primary care networks in England can recruit two mental health nurses.


Rishi Sunak starts by wishing England and Wales best of luck in the World Cup.


The Telegraph’s Ben Riley-Smith has more from the Sturgeon press conference.

Sturgeon spells out what would define a 'win' in her books. 'Majority' of Scottish votes, rather than winning a majority of seats.

SNP fell short of this in 2019 general election (got 45% of vote). Pro-indy Scottish Greens share could be included under that definition.

— Ben Riley-Smith (@benrileysmith) November 23, 2022

Here is the list of MPs down to ask a question.

PMQs Photograph: HoC


PMQs is about to start.

This is from the Conservative MSP Stephen Kerr, responding to Nicola Sturgeon’s press conference and referring to part of the supreme court judgment this morning. (See 10.28am.)

The main lines from the SNP in response to the Supreme Court appear to be that Scotland is a colony held against its will. The exact language the supreme Court just rejected in its ruling!

— Stephen Kerr MSP (@RealStephenKerr) November 23, 2022

Q: So would Green and Alba party votes count as votes for independence, as well as SNP ones?

Sturgeon says she can only decide what the SNP put forward.

Sturgeon is now taking questions.

Q: What election outcome would be an mandate for independence? And, if you lose, is the independence campaign over?

Sturgeon says she is just one person. It would not be for her to say the independence campaign would be over.

She says she wants the party as a whole to be involved in the debate on the campaign.

Scotland cannot become independent unless a majority of people vote for it, she says.

This is from the BBC’s Philip Sim on Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement about a special SNP conference. (See 10.50am.)

Nicola Sturgeon knows she's about to face a lot of questions about how a "de facto referendum" would work; this special conference is an attempt to push those questions down the road a bit, while she also looks to push the question of democratic mandates back on the UK govt

— Philip Sim (@BBCPhilipSim) November 23, 2022

Sturgeon says SNP to hold special conference in new year to decide how next election can be de facto independence vote

Sturgeon says the judgment undermines the UK’s claim to be a voluntary partnership of nations.

She says the ruling only closed off one route to Scotland choosing independence.

She says the UK government could still decide to allow a referendum. But she says she will not go “cap in hand” to them, and she expects them to continue to refuse a referendum.

She says she will not give up on seeking a vote on independence. The next vote is the general election, and there is an obvious opportunity to treat that as a de facto referendum on independence.

She says no party can tell people on what basis they should cast their vote.

But she says turning the next election into a de facto referendum is no longer hypothetical.

She says the SNP will have to decide the precise proposition they put to voters. And it will have to decide what would happen next if it were to win a majority at a general election.

She says she will ask the SNP to hold a special party conference in the new year to discuss what the party’s position should be on this.


Sturgeon says the ruling means the Scottish government cannot deliver on the referendum that the Scottish people have asked it to deliver.

She says this is not the outcome she wanted. But it gives clarity. She goes on:

Having that clarity sooner rather than later allows us now to plan a way forward, however imperfect that might be.

Sturgeon says she expects to see some triumphalism from unionists. But that would be misguided, she says.

(In fact, judging by their responses – see 10.47am or 11.07am, for example – some unionists are doing their best to avoid sounding triumphalist.)

Sturgeon responds to supreme court ruling, saying mandate for referendum 'undeniable'

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, is responding to the supreme court ruling.

She says the Scottish government respects the law.

But the supreme court does not make the law, and the law is not consistent with democracy, she says.

She says the court did no rule on whether there is a democratic mandate for a referendum. She says the fact that there is a mandate is “undeniable”.

And the court did not look at whether Scotland should be independent, or how else independence could be achieve, she says.

After PMQs there will be an urgent question in the Commons on the supreme court judgment. Ian Blackford, the SNP leader at Westminster, has tabled the question. He wants the PM to reply, but another minister could respond.

I will be covering it in full.

From the BBC’s James Coook

We’re about to hear @NicolaSturgeon’s reaction to the Supreme Court judgment at a hotel in Edinburgh. The room is packed with SNP staff and Scottish government advisers as well as journalists.

— James Cook (@BBCJamesCook) November 23, 2022

Nicola Sturgeon is about to deliver her response to the supreme court judgment. There is a live feed here.

👇 Watch @NicolaSturgeon's address about Scotland's future and the next steps on Scotland's independence journey.

— The SNP (@theSNP) November 23, 2022


Here is our video of the supreme court judgment being delivered.

UK government urges Holyrood to sideline independence and focus on 'issues that matter most' to people after court ruling

Alister Jack, the Scottish secretary, has welcomed the supreme court’s judgment and urged the Scottish government to sideline independence and focus on other issues which he says matter more to Scots. In a statement he says:

We note and respect the unanimous ruling from the supreme court today.

People in Scotland want both their governments to be concentrating all attention and resources on the issues that matter most to them. That’s why we are focused on issues like restoring economic stability, getting people the help they need with their energy bills, and supporting our NHS.


Pro-independence supporters outside the supreme court this morning.
Pro-independence supporters outside the supreme court this morning. Photograph: Alberto Pezzali/AP

Salmond criticises Sturgeon for taking nationalists down "blind alley' and calls for pro-independence protest campaign

Alex Salmond, the former SNP first minister who now leads the Alba party, says that in the light of today’s supreme court ruling nationalists should use “a civic campaign of protest and action” to push for independence. In a statement he says:

Today‘s decision must now be the spark that ignites a new popular movement like that of the yes campaign of 2014. Alba party have led the way on parliamentary interventions in the UK parliament and we call on others to join us. This must also be matched by a civic campaign of protest and action across Scotland and an independence convention to steer the campaign.

Scotland’s future must be placed back in Scotland’s hands - not a parliament or a court in London.

Salmond fell out bitterly with Nicola Sturgeon, who was once his protégé, over the Scottish government’s handling of the sexual misconduct claims against him, and he says that in taking the case to the supreme court now Sturgeon “led the national movement down a complete blind alley”. He explains:

The decision of the supreme court today is the result of a bad gamble that hasn’t paid off. What should have happened was the Scottish parliament should have passed the legislation for an independence referendum and forced the UK government to be the ones that challenged it. Real parliaments don’t ask for permission to implement their democratic mandate. Although the verdict is hardly a surprise it now begs the question of what is the democratic route for Scots to determine their own future?

He also says unionists should not be celebrating victory.

Unionists should beware in their glee as the lesson of history is that you can postpone democracy but you cannot deny it.

Alex Salmond
Alex Salmond. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA


Scottish Labour leaders says Scots want change - but not another referendum, or independence

Anas Sarwar, the Scottish Labour leader, has welcomed the supreme court’s ruling. He says people in Scotland want change – but not another referendum, or independence.

My statement on the Supreme Court's ruling today 👇🏻

— Anas Sarwar (@AnasSarwar) November 23, 2022

From BBC Scotland’s political editor, Glenn Campbell

If the ruling had gone her way, @NicolaSturgeon would at be at her official residence as first minister announcing plans for #indyref2 legislation

Instead, she’s putting her SNP leader’s hat on for a news conference in a hotel on the next steps in the independence campaign

— Glenn Campbell (@GlennBBC) November 23, 2022

Scotland in Union, the pro-union campaign, has welcomed the supreme court judgment. In a statement its chief executive, Pamela Nash, said:

We now have a clear verdict from the supreme court confirming that the SNP and the Greens cannot hold a referendum of their own accord.

They must now listen to the vast majority of people of Scotland who do not want a divisive second referendum, and who want to vote on the issues that really matter in the next general election, such as addressing the cost-of-living crisis.

It is time for the government to drop its obsession with breaking up our country and focus on the people’s priorities, not the SNP’s.

Nash mentions the general election because Nicola Sturgeon has said that, if the supreme court does not allow a second independence referendum, she will treat the next general election as a de facto vote on independence.

She may elaborate more on this when she speaks at 11.30am. See 10.22am.


Independence issue 'back in political court', says SNP

Getting a “clear answer” from the UK’s most senior judges on Holyrood parliament’s right to hold a referendum without Westminster’s permission puts the question of Scottish independence firmly “back in the political court”, an SNP MP said outside the supreme court. Philippa Whitford said:

The first minister asked it to be referred here so that it was clear, and we have a clear answer, and I think that is better than no ruling or a vague answer. It just simply moves the ball out of the legal court back in to the political court.

Reacting to the court’s ruling minutes after Lord Reed read it out, Whitford denied it was a blow to the cause of Scottish independence, adding that the issue might have been tied up for years if the Scottish parliament had gone down a route of legislating for a poll. She went on:

I think while many who support the union will be perhaps cheering, but they also need to realise that it puts questions to them about the nature of the United Kingdom.

We’re constantly told it’s a voluntary union, and therefore they need to consider what democratic right people in Scotland to choose.

Clear NO from judges on Holyrood power to hold #indyref2 is better than a vague answer, SNP ⁦@Dr_PhilippaW⁩ says outside Supreme Court after ruling

— Ben Quinn (@BenQuinn75) November 23, 2022


Reed on why right to self-determination under international law does not apply: Scots not 'an oppressed people'

In his summary of the judgment in court, Lord Reed also said the supreme court did not accept the SNP’s argument that Scotland should be allowed to hold another independence referendum because of the right to self-determination under international law. He said:

The Scottish National party, which the court permitted to intervene in the proceedings, made further submissions based primarily on the right to self-determination in international law. They argue, in summary, that the limitations upon the powers of the Scottish parliament as laid down in the Scotland Act should be restrictively interpreted in a way which is compatible with that right under international law.

The court is unable to accept that argument. The SNP rely on the judgment of the Canadian supreme xourt in a case concerned with Quebec, but in that case the court held that the right to self-determination under international law only exists in situations of former colonies, or where a people is oppressed, as for example under foreign military occupation, or where a definable group is denied meaningful access to government to pursue their political, economic, cultural and social development. The court found that Quebec did not meet the threshold of a colonial people or an oppressed people, nor could it be suggested that Quebecers were denied meaningful access to government to pursue their political, economic, cultural and social development. The same is true of Scotland and the people of Scotland.


Strugeon says, if law won't allow independence referendum, that shows why Scotland needs independence

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, has issued her first response to the supreme court judgment.

She says if the law says Scotland cannot hold an independence referendum, that shows why independence is needed.

1/ While disappointed by it I respect ruling of @UKSupremeCourt - it doesn't make law, only interprets it.
A law that doesn't allow Scotland to choose our own future without Westminster consent exposes as myth any notion of the UK as a voluntary partnership & makes case for Indy

— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) November 23, 2022

2/ Scottish democracy will not be denied.
Today’s ruling blocks one route to Scotland’s voice being heard on independence - but in a democracy our voice cannot and will not be silenced.
I'll make a full statement later this morning - tune in around 11.30am

— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) November 23, 2022

Reed on why supreme court ruled Scottish parliament does not have power to hold second independence referendum

And this is what Lord Reed said, as he delivered the summary of the judgment in court, explaining why the supreme court decided the Scottish parliament does not have the power to hold a second independence referendum.

Turning to the question itself, the answer turns on whether the provision of the proposed bill which provides for a referendum on Scottish independence would relate to matters which have been reserved to the United Kingdom parliament. The Scotland Act requires that question to be determined by reference to the purpose of the provision, having regard (among other things) to its effect in all the circumstances.

Previous decisions of this court establish that a provision will relate to a reserved matter if it has something more than a loose or consequential connection with it. The purpose and effect of the provision may be derived from a consideration of both the purpose of those introducing the legislation and the objective effect of the legislation. Its effect is not restricted to its legal consequences but can include its practical consequences …

The argument presented to the court by the lord advocate that the proposed bill does not relate to reserved matters is essentially that because the referendum result would not automatically or directly bring about the end of the union, it follows that the legislation does not relate to the Union; and because the referendum result would not automatically or directly bring about the end of the United Kingdom’s parliament’s sovereignty in relation to Scotland, therefore the proposed bill does not relate to the United Kingdom parliament.

However, as already explained, the effects of legislation for the purpose of deciding whether it relates to a reserved matter, are not confined to its legal effects, but include its practical effects. A lawfully held referendum would have important political consequences relating to the Union and the United Kingdom parliament. Its outcome would possess the authority, in a constitution and political culture founded upon democracy, of a democratic expression of the view of the Scottish electorate. It would either strengthen or weaken the democratic legitimacy of the Union and of the United Kingdom parliament’s sovereignty over Scotland, depending on which view prevailed, and it would either support or undermine the democratic credentials of the independence movement.

It is therefore clear that the proposed bill has more than a loose or consequential connection with the reserved matters of the Union of Scotland and England and the sovereignty of the United Kingdom parliament.


Reed on why supreme court decided it had power to hear independence referendum case

This is what Lord Reed said, as he delivered the summary of the judgment in court, explaining why the supreme court decided it could rule on this case. The UK government argued that a decision was premature, because the Scottish parliament has not passed its bill yet. Reed said:

The court has decided that it does have the power to decide the question referred to it by the Lord Advocate. Essentially, the court has interpreted the relevant provisions according to the ordinary meaning of the words used, and has decided on that basis that the provisions are wide enough to include this reference by the Lord Advocate. It is also consistent with the rule of law that the Lord Advocate should be able to obtain an authoritative judicial decision on the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament in advance of the introduction of a Bill.

The court also accepts the Lord Advocate’s argument that it is in the public interest that the court should decide the question referred to it. The reference has been made in order to obtain an authoritative ruling on a question of law which has already arisen on a matter of public importance. The court’s answer will determine whether the proposed Bill is introduced into the Scottish Parliament. The reference is not therefore hypothetical or premature.


Scottish government loses at supreme court as it says Holyrood cannot legally hold second independence referendum

Reed says the court has unanimously concluded the proposed bill does relate to reserved matters.

In the absence of any modification of reserved matters, the Scottish parliament does not have the power to legislate for a referendum on Scottish independence.


Reed signals supreme court does not accept Scottish government's key argument for allowing referendum

Reed is now turning to the main issue – whether the Scottish parliament has the right to hold a referendum.

He says what matters is the effect.

The argument of the Scottish government is essentially that, because the referendum result would not automatically bring about the end of the union, the legislation does not relate to the union.

And because the referendum would not end the UK parliament’s sovereignty over parliament, the legislation does not relate to it.

But Reed says what matters are not just legal effects by practical effects.

The effects of legislation for the purpose of deciding whether it relates to reserved matters are not confined to its legal effects, but include its practical effects.

The referendum would have “important political consequences relating to the Union and the United Kingdom parliament”.


Reed says the supreme court has decided that it is the public interest to decide this.

Reed says supreme court can rule on this case

Reed says the Scottish government wants to be able to hold a referendum without a section 30 order.

The lord advocate has asked for a ruling as to whether the proposed bill would be allowed.

The advocate general, who represents the UK government, has asked the court to say no.

Reed says the court is not making a political decision on the merits of independence.

He says the court has decided it can decide the matter.

Essentially, the court has interpreted the relevant provisions according to the ordinary meaning of the words used and has decided on that basis that the provisions are wide enough to include this reference by the lord advocate.

It’s also consistent with the rule of law that the lord advocate should be able to obtain an authoritative judicial decision on the legislative competence of the Scottish parliament in advance of the introduction of a bill.


Reed says the Scotland Act gives the Scottish parliament limited powers. It cannot legislate on reserved matters. Those include fundamental matters, including the union of the UK.

If legislation related to the union, or the UK parliament, the Scottish parliament would have no power to enact it.

He says the referendum in 2014 was allowed under a section 30 order, which amended the list of reserved matters for the purposes of the referendum.

This case arises because the Scottish government wants to introduce a bill for another referendum. But the UK government will not allow another section 30 order, he says.


Supreme court judgment unanimous, says Lord Reed

Lord Reed starts by saying he is pleased the court has been able to give judmment quickly. That is because the court is unanimous, and the judgment has been prioritised.


Supreme court delivers judgment in Scottish independence referendum case

Lord Reed, president of the supreme court, is arriving in the court, with his colleagues.

We have a live feed of the supreme court at the top of the blog.

From the SNP’s Angus MacNeil

At the Supreme Court, London England.
For decision on 1998 Scotland Act and an independence referendum,🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿

— Angus B MacNeil MP🇺🇦 (@AngusMacNeilSNP) November 23, 2022

If you want to know more about the legal issues at the heart of the Scottish independence referendum issue, the House of Commons library has produced an excellent 102-page briefing on the subject.

Here’s an extract from what is says on the issue of whether the court will decide it can rule on this matter given the Scottish parliament’s referendum bill has not been passed yet.

Precedents suggest courts dislike “hypothetical” or “premature” references. In this case, the supreme court is being asked to consider a Bill which has not yet been introduced to the Scottish parliament, and which could be amended after it has. This is unprecedented. As Professor Armstrong has observed, the question for the supreme court will be “whether it is right to give an answer to the question posed at a pre-legislative stage as opposed to a subsequent pre-enactment stage” …

In the Keatings case, Lord Carloway, lord president of the court of session, said a “draft bill has no legal status. If a bill is introduced, it may or may not be in the form which is contained in the draft. No matter what its initial form, it may be amended.”

In that case, Scottish government lawyers also argued that the lawfulness of any referendum legislation “depended on its terms when introduced and when passed” by MSPs, as it could be amended during the parliamentary process.

There is more on the Keatings case here.


Alex Salmond, the former SNP first minister who now leads the Alba party, told Times Radio this morning that refusing to let the Scots decide their own future would be counter-productive. He explained:

There’s no better way to rile the Scots than to tell them they can’t have a democratic choice on their own future that does tend to upset people, and rightly so. Because regardless of people’s views on the independence question, whether for it or against it, the vast, vast majority of people in Scotland believe that Scotland’s a nation, nations have the right of self determination, and basically it should be up to the Scots to decide whether they become independent or not.

To be told they can’t do it by a court or for that matter a government in London, there’s no better way to galvanise Scottish opinion.

The SNP MP Joanna Cherry is making the same point.

I’m eagerly awaiting the @UKSupremeCourt response to the question of whether the devolved @scotparl can competently legislate for #IndyRef2. However no matter the outcome Scotland’s right to self determination is inalienable & Democracy must be respected.

— Joanna Cherry KC (@joannaccherry) November 23, 2022

This is from the SNP MP Tommy Sheppard. He is making the point that, even if the supreme court says the Scottish government does not have the legal right to hold another independence referendum, it should have the democratic right to call such a vote.

An historic day for Scotland as we await the Supreme Court's indyref2 judgement.

Whatever the outcome, Scots have the right to self-determination and a mandate for a referendum exists. Today’s decision won’t change that. #timeforscotland

— Tommy Sheppard MP (@TommySheppard) November 23, 2022

Good morning. We will find out soon whether the supreme court is going to rule that the Scottish government has the power to hold a second independence referendum. The first one, in 2014, resulted in Scots voting to stay in the UK by 55% to 45%, which was a lot closer than many people would have predicted in the months and years before the vote. It was the closest the United Kingdom has come to breaking up since Ireland left 100 years ago. Understandably there is a lot of interest in whether Scotland will be allowed to try again.

As the SNP MP Angus MacNeil points out, there are three possible outcomes today.

Big Day
Three broad outcomes.

1) Yes, 1998 Scotland Act enables an independence referendum - then proceed to 19th Oct 2023.

2) No referendum under the 1998 Act from Holyrood - use elections

3) Away and legislate and perhaps be taken back to Supreme Court to be then quashed.

— Angus B MacNeil MP🇺🇦 (@AngusMacNeilSNP) November 23, 2022

According to the BBC’s Nick Eardley, the Scottish government privately thinks its chances of winning are just 20%.

V important ruling on #indyref2 coming at Supreme Court at 0945.

Nobody knows for sure what judges will decide, but both sides agree UK Govt win *appears* more likely.

Feeling in Scottish Govt is they have a 1/5 chance of securing a referendum today.

— Nick Eardley (@nickeardleybbc) November 23, 2022

But that seems optimistic, for at least two reasons. First, to win, the Scottish government has to clear two legal hurdles. The UK government argued that the supreme court should not even be hearing the case because the Scottish parliament has not actually passed its referendum bill yet. The Scottish government has to persuade the supreme court that the issue is justiciable in the first place, before persuading it also that Scotland has the right to hold the referendum.

Second, when the UK parliament passed the Scotland Act, the UK government was very clear that the legislation was not intended to give the Scottish parliament control over constitutional matters. The Scottish government is trying to get round this by arguing that a referendum would only be “advisory” (because there would have to be separate legislation to enact independence). This may be confusing to people who have heard nationalists argue for years that a referendum would settle the matter, and it is not an argument that the supreme court judges seemed to find compelling when they heard the case in October.

At the time Lord Reed, president of the supreme court, said it would take them “some months” to reach a decision. The fact that they are delivering their judgment six weeks later suggests that they have not found it hard to take a side, and – again – that might imply they are not minded to come up with a ruling that would upend the UK constitution.

Still, you never know.

Here is my colleague Libby Brooks preview story.

And here is her Q&A on the case.

Here is the agenda for the day.

9.45am: The supreme court delivers its judgment in the case about whether the Scottish government is entitled to hold an independence referendum.

9.45am: Suella Braverman, the home secretary, gives evidence to the Commons home affairs committee.

12pm: Rishi Sunak faces Keir Starmer at PMQs.

3pm: Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor, gives evidence to the Commons Treasury committee about the autumn statement.

I try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions and, if they are of general interest, I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.

If you want to attract my attention quickly, it is probably better to use Twitter. I’m on @AndrewSparrow.

Alternatively, you can email me at



Nadeem Badshah (now) ,Andrew Sparrow (earlier)

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