Answer on staging indyref2 without consent required before election, court told

PA

Voters in May’s Holyrood election need to know if Scotland can hold a second independence referendum without the consent of the UK Government, a court has heard.

Martin Keatings has taken a case to Scotland’s Court of Session, seeking a declarator of the court that the Scottish Parliament has the power to legislate for another referendum.

He is part of the Forward As One group being represented by Aidan O’Neill QC in the case against the Advocate General and Scottish ministers, in a virtual hearing before Lady Carmichael.

Mr O’Neill suggested that as part of their case, the defenders are “saying it is in the public interest they are kept in ignorance on an issue of law and the constitution which the current Scottish Government has said its party will run on in and make an election issue in the imminent Scottish Parliament elections”.

He told the court Mr Keatings is instead the one representing public interest in the litigation, and expressed dismay at the defenders who “would insultingly call him a mere busybody”.

The QC added the “answer is absolutely required in order to inform votes of ordinary citizens in forthcoming Scottish elections”.

Courts entrance
Courts entrance

A legal opinion for the group was first published by Mr O’Neill in December 2019, on the constitutionality of the issue after Prime Minister Boris Johnson refused to grant a section 30 order.

Such an order – under the Scotland Act 1998 to pass laws normally reserved to Westminster – was granted by the UK Government ahead of the 2014 independence referendum in which Scotland voted to remain part of the UK by 55.3% to 44.7%.

Fundraising by Forward As One began in January last year for legal fees, with the Crowd Justice page – https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/pas30/ – currently sitting at just over £195,000.

The website has around 6,800 pledges but Mr O’Neill told the court 10,000 people are backing the campaign.

He added that if Forward As One’s case is successful, the members will seek expenses on the basis that the case was not pursued for Mr Keatings’s personal gain but to vindicate their “public rights as ordinary voters”.

Mr Keatings is standing as an independent candidate for Mid-Scotland and Fife in the vote on May 6.

The hearing continues.

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