Scotland’s process of transition to an independent country following a ‘Yes’ vote in next year’s historic referendum has been outlined in a new paper published by Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
The publication, which sets out the steps required to establish the solid constitutional platform that would give the Scottish Government elected in May 2016 the powers to build a newly independent Scotland, comes just days after the Electoral Commission called on both sides of the campaign to set out the process following the referendum.
The paper outlines a transition timetable, with independence day scheduled for March 2016, immediately ahead of the May 2016 Scottish parliament election. This is in line with international precedent – of the 30 countries around the world that have become independent since 1945 following a referendum, the average length of time between the referendum and independence day has been approximately 15 months.
The Deputy First Minister said the publication, which is the first in a series of information papers to be released ahead of the independence white paper in the autumn, was an important contribution to the debate on what will happen after the historic 2014 vote.
Ms Sturgeon also called on the UK Government to adhere to the Electoral Commission’s recommendations by agreeing to early discussions about how Scotland will move forward following the referendum, with this publication providing a solid basis for those discussions.
The publication – ‘Scotland’s Future: from the referendum to independence and a written constitution’ – sets out plans for:
- An orderly and co-operative transition process between 2014 and 2016;
- The constitutional platform for an independent Scotland, with independence day itself in March 2016, immediately prior to the Scottish Parliament election campaign;
- Representatives of other parties and wider civic Scotland to be invited to join the Scottish Government in negotiating and agreeing the independence settlement;
- A written constitution, drafted by a new constitutional convention for Scotland, involving the people of Scotland and a wide range of interests from across Scotland’s institutions and civic society.
The Deputy First Minister said:
”An independent Scotland is not an end in itself, rather it offers us an opportunity to build the kind of country we all want to see – an outward looking, prosperous and successful nation that reflects the values of fairness, enterprise and opportunity.
“Next year’s referendum will allow the people of Scotland to seize that opportunity – and a ‘Yes’ vote will give civic Scotland and our national Parliament an unprecedented opportunity to build a solid constitutional platform for our country ahead of independence day in March 2016.
“Our proposals, set out today, would see this platform put in place immediately prior to the Scottish Parliament elections, to provide the newly elected Scottish Government with the full range of powers it needs to develop the country.
“Today’s paper provides the people of Scotland with a clear road map as to how Scotland would make the journey from a devolved system of government with the levers of power retained at Westminster, to a nation in which the powers of our national Parliament are complete and in which the people are sovereign.
”The Electoral Commission has called on both sides of the independence debate to provide more information to the people of Scotland and work together to discuss what will happen in the wake of the referendum. I agree with the Electoral Commission, which is why I have now written to the UK Government again urging them to agree to such discussions.
“The negotiations that led to the historic Edinburgh Agreement were conducted fairly, with respect and in the spirit of co-operation necessary to do the best by the people of Scotland and the rest of the UK.
“There is no reason that talks on the process required to make Scotland an independent country – if the people of Scotland make that choice – cannot begin now and be conducted in the same constructive and co-operative manner that would lead to a smooth transition.
“This paper is the first of a series of publications that will inform that debate, and provides the foundation for such discussions. I would urge the UK Government to heed the call of the Electoral Commission and engage on the process required following the 2014 vote.”
However the paper was attacked by pro-Union politicians, with Scottish Secretary of State Michael Moore accusing the SNP of being obsessed with process instead of concentrating on the issues.
Mr Moore said: “The Scottish government should be concentrating on the substantive issues of the independence debate, rather than endless distractions over process.
“Once again, they are devoting their energy to the picture-frame when they don’t have a painting to put in it.
“We haven’t even got a date for the referendum, let alone any detail on what independence would mean for people in areas like the economy, welfare, energy and financial services.”
Mr Moore’s party colleague, Lib Dem MSP Willie Rennie who leads the party’s group of five MSPs at Holyrood said the SNP timetable was over-optimistic.
“They would have to negotiate over 14,000 international treaties, a currency, the division of assets, membership of NATO and the host of international organisations,” he said.
“To say they will bang all this through in just 16 months is absurd. This will give most people in Scotland the shivers and fuel suspicion that the SNP are just making it up as they go along.”
However First Minister Alex Salmond said that 30 countries had already negotiated their own independence in an average period of fifteen months.
The SNP leader said: “The average timescale for these 30 countries since the Second World War is 15 months – we’ve actually allowed a bit longer than that in the process … If 30 other countries managed to do it, then why couldn’t Scotland?”
He added: “The ‘No’ side seem to think we’re not doing anything until November – I think they’ve been taken a bit by surprise by the amount of work that we’ve been doing.
“We’re putting forward what we think is the best future for Scotland, the best way to do it. We’re putting forward how the processes will unveil.
“The ‘No’ campaign seem to think their role is to stamp their feet and say, ‘you cannae do it’. Well, yes we can.”