Scottish independence: How the world's media reacted and reported on the Supreme Court ruling

The Supreme Court ruled another independence referendum cannot be held without the backing of Westminster – with judges at the UK’s highest court announcing their unanimous ruling yesterday, making clear the Scottish Parliament “does not have the power to legislate for a referendum on Scottish independence”.

The move creating headlines both in Scotland and across the world with many following the story and the fallout in a seismic day for British politics.

Following the ruling, Nicola Sturgeon vowed to continuing pushing for independence, saying: “As long as there is breath in my body, I refuse to give up on the basic principle of democracy.”

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Prime Minister Rishi Sunak welcomed the “clear and definitive” ruling from the Supreme Court saying: “The people of Scotland want us to be working on fixing the major challenges that we collectively face, whether that’s the economy, supporting the NHS or indeed supporting Ukraine.

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Here’s a look at how the world reported and reacted to the ruling from the Supreme Court on Scottish independence.

French publication France 24 led with a news story on the matter, explaining the ruling and the political fallout from the decision, leaning on Nicola Sturgeon’s reaction and the possible implications for the union. They wrote: “The Scottish National Party (SNP) had said that in that event, it would turn the next general election into a de-facto vote on splitting from the rest of the United Kingdom, threatening constitutional chaos. Sturgeon's SNP ran in the 2021 Scottish parliamentary elections on a promise to hold a legally valid referendum after the Covid crisis subsided.”

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French newspaper, Le Monde wrote that the debate on Scottish independence and the decision to go to the Supreme Court had been “revived by Brexit” and that the decision for the UK to leave the EU despite the majority of Scots voting to remain in the bloc has “changed the situation.” Le Monde state that Nicola Sturgeon anticipated a legal defeat but that “she had promised a legally valid referendum” at the 2021 elections and focused on the impact of a de facto vote on the issue in the next general election.

The Irish Times used their editorial to discuss what the ruling meant for the future of the UK. In a piece titled “The Irish Times view on the UK Supreme Court decision on Scottish independence”. They wrote that the ruling “opens up a whole new political phase of this momentous question for the UK’s future.” adding that “Much will depend on how convincingly the Labour party proposes to reform devolution in the UK as an alternative to its break-up were Scotland to leave.

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People attend a rally outside the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh following the decision by judges at the UK Supreme Court in London that the Scottish Parliament does not have the power to hold a second independence referendum. Picture date: Wednesday November 23, 2022.

“That stark prospect underlines how much is at stake. Whichever way Scotland goes has large implications for Ireland, North and South. A shift towards independence could bolster debates on Irish unity – or away from it towards deepening existing structures on this island.”

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German newspaper Die Ziet published an article titled loosely as “She doesn’t want to give up” that Nicola Sturgeon could secure Scottish independence following the ruling from the Supreme Court “in another way” using elections with the piece stating: “The dream of a referendum on Scotland's independence next year is over.” The German publication focussed on the nature of the union in their piece which read: “The Union is anything but a voluntary. If the leadership in London does not grant the Scots their democratic right to decide their own future, independence is all the more important and unavoidable.”

Spanish newspaper El Pais wrote that the Supreme Court “had thrown a jug of cold water” on Scottish independence plans adding that the ruling created a “clear and final” judgment on the prospect of Scottish independence in the next few years, with the paper speculating that Labour may agree to a second referendum vote if they need votes at the next General Election.

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Catalonian newspaper El Nacional ran a number of stories on the decision, looking at the demonstrations and the outcome of the decision. The newspaper also ran a Q&A piece with Nick McKerrell, Professor of Law at Glasgow Caledonian University, about the implications of the vote and the “uncertain path towards independence” Another news piece from the paper stated that such legal action was necessary due to “refusals from down south on allowing Scots another independence vote.”

The New York Times wrote in their story on the Supreme Court decision that the decision was a set back for all involved, and that it could cause issues with Scotland’s plan to join the EU. Their piece read: “The widely expected decision lifted one of the clouds hanging over the British prime minister, Rishi Sunak. He is struggling with an economic crisis, a fraught relationship with the European Union, and division in his Conservative Party after political upheavals toppled two of his predecessors in the past four months.” adding “the setback for those advocating Scotland’s separation is unlikely to stop the independence movement, which has gained momentum since Britain voted to leave the European Union in 2016.”

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It continued “Still, as a practical matter, the ruling is a hurdle. A referendum held without Britain’s approval would lack international legitimacy, which could complicate Scotland’s professed goal of rejoining the European Union as an independent nation.”

US broadcaster CNN reported that the decision was unlikely to resolve calls for Scottish independence stating: “The court unanimously rejected an attempt by the Scottish National Party (SNP) to force a vote next October, as it did not have the approval of Britain’s parliament. But the decision is unlikely to stem the heated debate over independence that has loomed over British politics for a decade. Scotland last held a vote on the issue, with Westminster’s approval, in 2014, when voters rejected the prospect of independence by 55% to 45%.”