THE SNP’s President has claimed the UK Supreme Court will “fail the people of Scotland” if it rules Holyrood cannot hold its own independence referendum.

Michael Russell made the comment as he addressed the SNP conference in Aberdeen despite Nicola Sturgeon previously insisting the Court would not be to blame. 

It coincided with one of Scotland’s most respected legal minds, the former judge Lord Hope of Craighead, predicted the Court would deliver its judgment by Christmas.

A former Deputy President of the Court, he told Radio Scotland’s Sunday Show he expected it would take "six to eight weeks", rather than many months. 

The Court is due to hear arguments next week on whether Holyrood could stage Indyref2 under its existing powers without Westminster’s consent.

Ms Sturgeon has said that if it rules Holyrood cannot proceed, she will fight the next general election as a “de facto referendum” on the single question of independence. 

Addressing SNP delegates this morning, Mr Russell, a former Constitution Secretary and head of the party's Independence Unit, said: “There is no great in Great Britain.

“And our choice is stark and clear. 

“Decline with the UK, or prosper as a small independent normal country within the EU. 

“Now we know when we're going to make that choice.

“If the Supreme Court rules in our favour, then it will be on the 19th of October next year. 

“And if the Supreme Court fails the people of Scotland, then we will rise to that challenge too, and put our case at the next general election whenever that is.

“That's a choice that has to be made, if Scotland is to escape from the downward spiral of Tory and Labour government exploiting but ignoring Scotland.”

The Herald: NQNQ (Image: NQ)

The remarks were applauded by activists in the main conference hall.

This contrasts sharply with what Ms Sturgeon said when she told the Scottish Parliament in June that the issue was being referred to the Court by the Lord Advocate.

Then, she said: “It is possible that the Supreme Court will decide that the Scottish Parliament does not have the power to legislate even for a consultative referendum.

"To be clear: if that happens, it will be the fault of the Westminster legislation, not of the court.”

The Court is due to hear arguments on whether a Holyrood referendum on independence would "relate to" the reserved issue of the Union on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The SNP argues it would not. The UK Government says it manifestly would, and so any legislation for such a referendum would be incompetent and "not law". 

The Scottish Government’s top law officer, the Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain KC, has effectively said she isn’t sure, and so has asked the Court for a definitive ruling.

The case is being heard by five justices, including the Court’s President, the Scottish judge Lord Reed.