THE British Government has won its court case in the UK Supreme Court against the Scottish Government. The Supreme Court, with its preponderance of English judges, ruled that two bills passed by the Scottish Parliament are outside Holyrood’s competence. The judges unanimously agreed that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill, and the European Charter of Local Self-Government Bill (ECLSG), went beyond the limits of the Scottish Parliament’s powers.

READ MORE: Supreme Court: Scotland's children's rights bill goes outside of Holyrood's competence

In its report on the ruling in the lunchtime news on the UK-wide BBC1, the Corporation claimed that today's ruling had implications for a future independence referendum, implying that it made it more likely that the Supreme Court would also strike down a future referendum if it were to be held without the consent of Westminster. I'm no lawyer but regrettable as today's ruling is, it clearly has no bearing on the lawfulness of a future independence referendum. The legal arguments are quite distinct.

The entire basis for arguing that a second referendum would be lawful even without Westminster's consent is that it does not affect Westminster's ability to make laws for Scotland. It would be entirely up to the Westminster Parliament to decide how to react to the outcome of that referendum. The mere fact of holding a referendum does not impact upon Westminster's ability to make laws for Scotland, which was the crux of today's ruling. 

Moreover, there is a very different political context. The judges in the Supreme Court would be aware that the current Scottish Government was elected on a manifesto commitment to hold another referendum. Were the Court to rule that it could not do so, it would be in effect overruling the outcome of a democratic election and moreover making a fundamental change to the constitutional nature of the UK, changing it from the traditional understanding of a voluntary union into a union founded on compulsion. This would have huge political ramifications for the whole of the UK but especially in Scotland. Judges would be very wary of igniting a constitutional crisis of that magnitude.

For all these reasons today's events tell us nothing about the lawfulness of a second independence referendum, much as certain excitable British nationalist commentators might wish otherwise.

This piece is an excerpt from today's REAL Scottish Politics newsletter, which is emailed out at 7pm every weekday with a round-up of the day's top stories and exclusive analysis from the Wee Ginger Dug.

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