Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has called on both sides of the independence debate to conduct the argument over the constitutional future of Scotland in a positive way that encourages people in Scotland to make an informed choice in the autumn 2014 referendum.
Speaking at the conclusion of a historic year, which began in January with the consultation Your Scotland, Your Voice and culminated with the signing of the Edinburgh Agreement, the Deputy First Minister said she looked forward to setting out the positive case for independence in the coming 12 months.
Ms Sturgeon confirmed the next steps in the process, which will continue early in the new year, with the introduction of legislation for debate in the Scottish Parliament on Scotland’s referendum, building up to the publication of a white paper on an independent Scotland in November.
The Deputy First Minister said:
“In autumn 2014, Scotland will make the biggest decision on its constitutional future in 300 years and the debate around that future has already begun in earnest.
“Now that the legal basis of the referendum has been confirmed through the historic Edinburgh Agreement, the debate that follows on the substance of the argument must be a positive one – the people of Scotland deserve no less.
“I want to see – on both sides of the debate, and whatever we think Scotland’s constitutional future should be – everyone involved engaging in a positive way that encourages the people of Scotland to turn out and make an informed choice on their future.
“The debate we will have over the next two years must be about how we can achieve the economic growth and social justice that the Scottish people would like in their country. I believe only the powers we will get through independence offer us the tools we need to build the country we want.
“Early in the new year, I will introduce legislation for consideration by the Scottish Parliament, both on the main referendum bill that will set out how Scotland’s referendum will be run, as well as the bill that will allow the Parliament to extend the vote to all 16 and 17 year olds in Scotland.
“The Edinburgh Agreement means this will truly be a referendum designed and delivered by the Scottish Parliament.”
Ms Sturgeon continued:
“A lot was achieved in 2012 to ensure that Scotland can hold a referendum made in Scotland that is beyond effective legal challenge.
“We started the year with the launch of our consultation ‘Your Scotland Your Referendum’ which received a fantastic 26,000 responses. The independent analysis showed that the majority of respondents agreed with our proposals on the ballot paper and question, the timing of the referendum and the extension of the franchise to 16 and 17 year olds.
“October saw the signing of the historic Edinburgh Agreement by the First Minister and Prime Minister. It confirms there will be an open and democratic process to allow the people of this country to decide whether Scotland will be an independent nation. The outcome of the vote will be respected by both the UK and Scottish Governments – both of which have pledged to work in the best interests of the people of Scotland and the rest of the UK, whatever the result.
“It will also ensure that the biggest decision the people of our country will make for many generations is made here in Scotland for the benefit of all of those who live and work here.
“Over the coming months, in the build up to the white paper being published in November 2013, this government will set out the positive case for independence through a range of papers, speeches and events.
“In 2014, we will decide if we want to complete our parliament’s powers and restore our nation’s sovereignty. And that is when Scotland will have the chance to bring home the powers we need to build a better country.”
MEANWHILE according to the Sunday Times, Scottish Secretary Michael Moore is amongst those being lined up for criticism following revelations that the UK government has no plans in place should Scots vote yes in the independence referendum.
According to the newspaper, a parliamentary inquiry into independence is expected to accused the Lib Dem MP and the Westminster coalition of complacency after it emerged that the possibility of independence was not being prepared for.
Amongst some of the concerns raised is the housing of the Trident nuclear weapons system currently situated on the Clyde. Similar concerns have been expressed over the economic implications for the rest of the UK should Scotland become independent.