WELL that's it. All those people who have been demanding a Plan B now have their answer. They've got a Plan B, and they've got a Plan C.

The First Minister went further than many expected. She is writing to Boris Johnson today to demand a Section 30 order so that the legality of the referendum can be put beyond any doubt.

However, the Scottish Government plans to press ahead with a referendum anyway. It intends for the referendum to be held on October 19, 2023, and the question will be the same as the last time: "Should Scotland be an independent country?"

That referendum will, just like all previous referendums, such as the 1979 Assembly referendum, the 1999 devolution referendum, the 2014 independence referendum and the 2016 EU referendum, be a consultative referendum. However, right now, the topic of the lawfulness of a referendum is mired in an uncertainty which only benefits the anti-independence parties because it allows them to focus on questions of process and to avoid having to deal with the substance of the independence question.

Therefore, in order to bring some much needed legal clarity to the matter, and to avoid a long, slow, drawn-out process in the courts which again would only benefit the anti-independence parties, the Scottish Government has itself asked the Lord Advocate to refer the matter to the UK Supreme Court.

The First Minister stated her hope that the court will rule that the referendum is lawful and that the Scottish Parliament has the legal power to fulfill the mandate given to it by the people of Scotland at the last Holyrood elections. This will immediately put to rest the nonsense spouted by Douglas Ross about a wildcat referendum.

If the court rules against the Scottish Government, it will in effect be ruling that the entire understanding of traditional Scottish Unionism that Scotland is in a voluntary union of nations is a lie. It seems to be the view of most anti-independence commentators that this is the view the court will take.

Such an outcome, said the First Minister, would be the fault of the Westminster Parliament and the Conservative and Labour parties which have traduced the Scottish Claim of Right which affirms that the people of Scotland have the sovereign right to decide the form of government best suited to their needs.

That will be a devastating blow to the anti-independence parties who will have to defend a United Kingdom to the people of Scotland which denies democracy to Scotland – a UK which tells the people that it does not matter what they vote for, they will get whatever a Westminster government they didn't vote for decides to impose on them and, in the words of the Conservative Scotland Secretary Alister Jack: "Suck it up."

As the First Minister pointed out, this would be very far from being the end of the matter. Indeed, it would be a set of circumstances which demonstrated the necessity for independence. It would immediately turn the independence debate into a debate about ensuring democracy itself, because it would be clear that democracy is not possible for Scotland within the UK.

Should the British state be foolish and arrogant enough to go down that road, then the next General Election in Scotland will become a de facto referendum on independence, a plebiscite election. The SNP will contest that election on the single issue of securing Scottish independence and a victory in that election will provide a mandate for independence. 

Westminster cannot block the SNP or the other pro-independence parties from standing on that platform, and by then the anti-independence parties will have revealed their true anti-democratic colours. That is going to make it very difficult for them to sell an anti-independence message to the Scottish electorate. "Vote for us Scotland, so we can ignore you." It's not a very attractive slogan, but it's an accurate one.

Whether it is in a legal referendum on October 19, 2023, or in a plebiscite election, because the British state is running scared of the verdict of the people of Scotland, one way or another Scotland will have its say.

This piece is an extract 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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