The UK Supreme Court said on Wednesday it would rule as soon as possible on the legality of Scotland holding an independence referendum in 2023 without the consent of London.
The president of the court, Robert Reed, told lawyers representing London and Edinburgh that the panel of five judges would give their judgment “as soon as we can.”
Reed had previously said the decision would take “some months.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s nationalist government in Edinburgh wants to hold a vote in October 2023 on the question: Should Scotland be an independent country?
Lawyers for the Scottish government want the judges to rule on the devolved parliament’s rights if London continues to block a vote.
Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party ran in the 2021 Scottish parliamentary elections on a promise to hold a legally valid referendum after the COVID-19 crisis subsided.
It now wants to go ahead but the UK government, which has to give approval under the Scotland Act 1998, has not given permission.
The Scottish government seeks to create its own legal framework for another vote, arguing that the “right to self-determination is a fundamental and inalienable right.”
But the UK government argues that Scotland cannot act unilaterally in a “reserved” matter concerning the constitutional makeup of the UK as a whole, where the government in London holds sway.
The last referendum in 2014 saw 55 percent of Scots vote “no” to breaking away.
But this came before Brexit, which most in Scotland voted against, and the parliamentary election, which saw a majority of pro-independence lawmakers elected for the first time.
If thwarted in court, the party plans to make the next general election, due by January 2025 at the latest, a de facto referendum, campaigning on a single issue.