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Andrew Marr skewers SNP MP over Indyref2 plans ahead of court case

Andrew Marr questions John Nicolson over SNP plans on Indyref2

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Andrew Marr has suggested the Scottish National Party could “not get what they want” from the upcoming Supreme Court decision on the legality of a second independence referendum as the UK’s highest authority begins deliberating on the decision today. Speaking to SNP MP John Nicholson on LBC, Mr Marr implied it was likely that both Downing Street and the Supreme Court could rule against the legal possibility of indyref2, before asking what the SNP would do if the election was “fought on the cause of independence alone”. Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said on the weekend she was “optimistic” about the legal case to be heard from today, but added there was no point in “second-guessing” what the outcome might be.

Mr Marr said: “John, let me give you a small prediction. They are not going to do what you want and you may not get what you want in the court either. 

“If it is this strange type of election where you are fighting on the cause of independence alone, does that really mean a one sentence manifesto and do you then count the numbers of votes you get and do it as if it were a referendum or do you base it on the number of MPs you get? 

Mr Nicholson said: “I do not know. I do not think we have decided that and we’ll get to it when it comes, and we will make those decisions. 

“You will remember, of course, that it was Margaret Thatcher, the great SNP supporter, who used to argue that the majority of seats for the SNP at a general election would constitute a mandate for Scottish independence. 

“So, it is not a new idea that this should happen but it is not our first preference by any means.” 

On Tuesday morning, a panel of five justices will start hearing evidence from the Scottish Government regarding the case for undermining a lack of consent from the UK Government to hold a second independence referendum. 

Two days have been set aside for the hearing at the Supreme Court in London, with the UK Government expected to respond on Wednesday. The case concerns proposed legislation at the Scottish Parliament called the Scottish Independence Referendum Bill.

Judges have been asked to decide whether the Bill relates to “reserved matters” – meaning it is outside Holyrood’s competence. Nicola Sturgeon asked the Lord Advocate, Scotland’s chief law officer, to refer the Bill to the Supreme Court when she published the legislation in June.

This was in order to head off any legal challenge from her opponents, with the First Minister saying she wanted an “indisputably lawful” referendum to take place. The UK Government, represented in the court by the Advocate General, is opposed to a second referendum.

The Advocate General has argued in written submissions that a referendum plainly relates to reserved matters and is outside Holyrood’s legislative competence.

He has also asked the court to rule on whether it has jurisdiction to hear the case, saying the Bill has not yet been introduced to the Scottish Parliament. At the weekend, the First Minister spoke to journalists about the upcoming case while attending the SNP conference in Aberdeen.

Asked if she was confident the Supreme Court will grant Holyrood the ability to hold a second referendum, Ms Sturgeon said: “I am very hopeful and optimistic of that.

“But anybody who knows anything about court hearings would know that there’s not a lot of point trying to second-guess a court or speculate about the court’s outcome.”

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The five Supreme Court judges who will hear the case are Lord Reed, Lord Lloyd-Jones, Lord Sales, Lord Stephens and Lady Rose. While there is no set time for the judgment to be issued, it could be weeks or months away.

Lord Hope, a former deputy president of the Supreme Court, has suggested such a decision could take six to eight weeks. 

A UK Government spokesman said: “People across Scotland want both their governments to be working together, focusing on the issues that matter to them, not talking about another independence referendum.

“On the question of legislative competence, the UK Government’s clear view remains that a bill legislating for a referendum on independence would be outside the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament. We will set out our arguments in full at the Supreme Court hearing.”

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