Can Scotland hold an informal independence opinion-poll without Westminster's consent?
Yesterday, Nicola Sturgeon said that she would hold an independence referendum before 2023.
Our democratic mandate to allow people to decide the country's future is beyond question. And at this juncture in history, it is essential that we consider the kind of country we want to be, and how best to secure it. As we emerge from the pandemic, choices fall to be made that will shape our economy and our society for decades to come.
Which parliament, Westminster or Holyrood, should make these choices? And what principles will they be guided by? These are questions which cannot be avoided, nor postponed, until the die is already cast. So we intend to offer the choice. We will do so only when the COVID crisis has passed, but our aim, COVID permitting, is that it will be in the first half of this parliament, before the end of 2023.
The Union is a reserved matter under Schedule 5 of the Scotland Act so for the Scottish Parliament to legislate for a new independence referendum it requires a Section 30 order to be granted through an Order in Council like the one in the Edinburgh Agreement in 2012. This is very unlikely to be granted by the current UK government.
So is there anything to stop the Scottish Government from holding a more informal referendum like a glorified opinion-poll where it accepts a 'Yes' outcome would not have immediate consequences for the Union but which it could use to support its case for the granting of a Section 30 order?