The former civil servant who negotiated the 2014 Scottish independence vote said the Scottish government would be unlikely to win a legal challenge against the UK Government in their bid for a second referendum.

Professor Ciaran Martin, who was constitution director at the Cabinet Office between 2011 and 2014, said no court could compel the United Kingdom to dissolve itself.

This week, Nicola Sturgeon laid out plans for a renewed case for independence with the launch of a new series of papers.

But Boris Johnson said he would not grant the Section 30 Order required to hold a second vote on the issue.

Speaking to Herald Columnist Neil Mackay, Prof Martin said there are two paths to independence, the first through agreement with the UK. 

He added: “The other is through unilateral action, hoping that others will recognise your independence. The Scottish Government emphatically seeks the first option.

"But, frankly, this means it can’t achieve its goals without the agreement of the UK Government. Even if the Scottish Government manages to persuade a court to allow for some form of independence referendum, no court can compel unionists to take part, and no court can compel the British Government to recognise the result and facilitate independence."

Prof Martin continued: “So the options for the UK Government to block any and all paths to agreed independence are inexhaustible. Independence requires political agreement with London.

"If that’s not forthcoming, there’s nowhere to go. You can argue that’s a denial of Scotland’s democratic rights as a nation and makes a mockery of the principle of a union of consent.

"Personally, I think there’s a lot in that argument. But it’s also a political and legal fact of life”.

Speaking to BBC’s The Nine on Wednesday, Prof Martin reitereated his stance : “Even if, and in my view, it’s unlikely, the Scottish government managed to win their court case. That’s not the end of the UK government’s options to block independence.”

Professor Martin said the current stalemate between the UK and Scottish Governments is “completely different” to the discussions had surrounding the independence referendum a decade ago.

He said: “The fundamental difference between now and a decade ago is then the UK government was willing not just to concede a referendum but more importantly to contemplate the break up of the UK should the referendum be won by the Yes side.

“We’re now in a completely different situation.”

The Herald:

There has been speculation that the Scottish government would pursue a second referendum without a Section 30 Order.

Professor Martin added: “Let’s say for example, there is no agreement and there won’t be on a so called Section 30 Order, which is the way it worked a decade ago, and the Scottish government proceeds with its own bill, two things can happen.

“One is the Supreme Court blocks it, in which case it is unlawful to have the referendum. The other thing is, and there’s a lot of speculation that this is the Scottish government’s plan, there is a slightly weaker form of words and it’s about consulting the people to give the Scottish government a mandate and that might get through, it might not.”

“The UK Government and the Unionist parties could say we’re not going to take part. They could say we don’t care what the result of this sham referendum is: we’re not going to facilitate independence.”