After Brexit many politicians in Scotland have started calling for a second referendum. While Brexit itself was a big uncertainty at the time when the Scottish referendum was negotiated, surely the Scottish reaction to it was possible to predict.

So why didn't the UK government include a clause in the original referendum saying that Scotland can only do one every X years? Was this ever discussed during the original negotiations?

  • In addition to the excellent answer; how exactly does one nation "ban" the self-determination of another unless they are willing to use force? Which, explicitly, Westminster are not willing to do. Commented May 4, 2017 at 21:51
  • @Venture2099 unless the Scottish people are willing to use violence they can't force anything either. It's Westminster that holds all the cards. Commented May 4, 2017 at 22:07
  • They don't need violence. The Scottish Government can unilaterally declare independence any time they want. Just like the people of Gibraltar or the Falklands Islands. Violence only comes into play if the territory being seceded from tries to stop the secession. Westminster most certainly do not hold all the cards. Actually their position is tenuous at best due to the Mid Lothian question. Scotland can returns dozens to MPs to Westminster every term to block and frustrate all Westminster legislation. For instance voting for English students to pay £30K tuition fees while the Scottish dont Commented May 5, 2017 at 8:00
  • @Venture2099 Catalonia brags about the same for decades now and they haven't been able to declare independence yet. Scotland couldn't even run a referendum without the UK's approval - which is why I am perplexed about why Westminster didn't at least ask SNP to commit to X years of peaceful coexistence. Commented May 5, 2017 at 8:14
  • Of couse they can run a referendum. The Scottish Government can exercise their budget as they see fit. The only question is whether that is legally binding on the Union which is a matter for legal courts to decide however the United Kingdom is a signatory of United Nations charter. It should be noted that in the UK no referendums are legally binding and all are advisory. Commented May 5, 2017 at 8:30

1 Answer 1


The Westminster government's opinion is that the ability to organise an independence referendum is not one of the Scottish parliament's devolved powers, and thus far the SNP don't seem to be intending to test this. As such, it isn't a matter of binding Scotland from holding a referendum, but binding the Westminster parliament from calling one. But the doctrine of Parliamentary sovereignty says that one parliament can't bind the actions of later one, so the most that would be practicable would be to require no more than one referendum per parliamentary term, which isn't that different from the political reality anyway.

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