By Bill Heaney
The Scottish Conservatives have today welcomed the Supreme Court’s unanimous verdict that the Scottish Government does not have the legal authority to hold an independence referendum.
Party leader Douglas Ross said the clear and unequivocal verdict – delivered by Scotland’s most senior judge, Lord Reed – must now be respected by Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP Government.
He called on Nicola Sturgeon to finally drop her divisive plans for another vote on the constitution and instead focus all her attention on the real priorities of the Scottish people – the global cost-of-living crisis, Scotland’s ailing NHS and a series of public-sector strikes.
He added that enough time and money had already been wasted on the SNP’s “referendum obsession”.
Douglas Ross said: “I welcome the Supreme Court’s unanimous judgment that the constitution is a matter reserved to the UK Parliament, and that Nicola Sturgeon’s referendum bill would not be legal.
Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon with local SNP MPs Brendan O’Hara and Martin Docherty.
“This was a clear and unequivocal verdict delivered by the highest court in the country – and the SNP Government and their supporters must respect it.
“Nicola Sturgeon insisted on taking this case to the Supreme Court at the cost of hundreds of thousands of pounds to the Scottish taxpayer – and this ruling confirms that it was a waste of time and money.
“The Scottish people have made it clear in poll after poll that they don’t want another referendum next year.
“The country faces enormous challenges right now. Our economy and our NHS are in crisis. We have a wave of public-sector strikes – including the first teachers’ strike in almost four decades. These key issues must be everyone’s top priority.
“Holding another divisive referendum next year is the wrong priority at the worst possible time for Scotland.
“Following this judgment, the SNP must now get back to work, drop their referendum obsession and focus on what really matters to the people of Scotland.”
Meanwhile, Jackie Baillie, right, the MSP for Dumbarton constituency and deputy leader of the Labour Party in Scotland, said: “The Scottish Government were entitled to seek legal clarity on this question. The decision delivered by the Supreme Court today is clear and I thank them for their speedy work in this case.
“We must now focus on the problems facing our country and there are many which are impacting on people across the constituency in Dumbarton, the Vale of Leven, and Helensburgh and Lomond. These include the cost of living crisis and the ongoing problems which are crippling our NHS.
“There is not a majority in Scotland for a referendum or independence, neither is there a majority for the status quo.
“One thing is clear, there is a majority both here in Scotland and across the whole of the UK for change. And that will be delivered by a Labour government that Scotland and the whole of the UK needs.
“Every part of our country deserves far better than more misery and decline under the out of touch Tories and the incompetent SNP.
“Change is coming – and Scotland will lead the way by helping to elect the Labour government at the next general election that gets rid of the Tories after 12 years of misery.”
Responding to the Supreme Court’s verdict, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton, left, said: “This is an embarrassing defeat for the First Minister.
“Scores of legal experts warned that the law is clear and that this case was a complete waste of Supreme Court time and taxpayers’ money, but the Scottish Government would not listen.
“It has been a terrible use of funds at a time when every penny should be squeezed to help people through the cost of living crisis. Breaking up the UK simply isn’t a priority for people opening their bills with dread or struggling to get the treatment they need.
“I have lost count of how many times the First Minister has launched independence campaigns, each with less energy and momentum than the last. While Nicola Sturgeon goes through the motions people wait days for an ambulance, months for NHS treatment and years for lifeline ferries.
“It is time the SNP Government finally focus on what really matters. What Scotland needs now is new hope not old divisions.”