Your Scotland Your Voice – Scottish Government publishes Independence Referendum Consultation

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By Martin Kelly
 
First Minister Alex Salmond has outlined the Scottish Government’s detailed proposals for the independence referendum in the much anticipated consultation document.
 
Announcing its publication in the Holyrood chamber Mr Salmond insisted that the referendum should be decided by the Scottish people and that the option of devo-max would not be ruled out.

By Martin Kelly
 
First Minister Alex Salmond has outlined the Scottish Government’s detailed proposals for the independence referendum in the much anticipated consultation document.
 
Announcing its publication in the Holyrood chamber Mr Salmond insisted that the referendum should be decided by the Scottish people and that the option of devo-max would not be ruled out.

The announcement brought with it, for the first time, the Scottish Government’s proposed question for the ballot paper: “Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?”

In a statement to Holyrood’s MSPs, Mr Salmond described the question as “short, straightforward and clear”.

Whilst acknowledging this was the Scottish Government’s preferred option, Mr Salmond stressed that the consultation would seek the views of all of Scotland before coming to a final decision on whether devo-max would also feature.

The SNP leader said the referendum, expected to cost about £10m, should meet “the highest standards of fairness, transparency and propriety”.

Mr Salmond added:

“The people who live in Scotland are the best people to make decisions about Scotland’s future. The referendum will be held in autumn 2014 on the same terms as any Scottish election, to the same standards and with the same guarantee of fairness.  We will decide our future in a vote which is beyond challenge or doubt.”

The First Minister described Scotland as having been “blessed with national resources, bright people and a strong society” and went on:

“We have an independent education system, legal system and NHS.  They are respected worldwide.  I believe that if we connect the wealth of our land to the well-being of our people, we can create a better country.”

Mr Salmond argued that only with independence could Scotland reach its potential and claimed that current powers were not enough to effectively create jobs, grow our economy and help the vulnerable.

“To achieve this we shouldn’t have a constitution that restrains us, but one which frees us to build a better society.” he said and added:

“Under independence, Scotland would take its place as a responsible member of the international community while continuing as a friend and good neighbour to the other nations of these islands, continuing the strong social union which will always bind us together.

“It is our future and our choice.”

Scottish Secretary Michael Moore responded to today’s publication by calling for the ballot to be held “sooner rather than later”. 

The Lib Dem MP again insisted that the Scottish Government had no legal powers to hold any referendum: “Any attempt to pass legislation for either an independence or ‘devo-max’ referendum would be outside the existing powers of the Scottish Parliament and liable to legal challenge.” he claimed before adding:

“We have made it clear that we think the Scottish government would lose such a challenge.”

Scottish Green Party leader Patrick Harvie welcomed the consultation and highlighted the issue of Trident as one of the main reasons that many people came to support independence.  Mr Harvie called on a commitment that an independent Scotland would never allow nuclear weapons on its soil.

Mr Harvie also welcomed the decision by the Scottish Government to allow the Electoral Commission to oversee the ballot and voiced support for the SNP’s desire to see the referendum franchise extended, saying: “I welcome the move to accept the oversight of the Electoral Commission by the Scottish government.

“Now it’s time for Westminster to give ground and allow 16 and 17-year-olds to vote.”

Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont however suggested that the Scottish Government’s consultative process was unfair and claimed that the Scottish Government had declined her invitation to hold talks.

She said: “The most important thing is that whichever side wins this referendum, it, and the process to it, is conducted in such a way that the day after it all Scots can come together to fulfil our national duty to make Scotland all it can be.

“Sadly, the first minister declined those talks, and this consultation paper has done little for those who fear this process is not a fair one.”

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson welcomed the clarity of the question but added: “I notice that the First Minister has left wriggle room for a second question in there.  We believe that the question should be fair and decisive.”

 

The consultation paper – Your Scotland Your Referendum – seeks views on:

  • what the ballot paper should say
  • what spending limits should be set
  • how the referendum should be managed and regulated
  • The consultation will close on May 11, 2012.

The referendum will be administered using the same arrangements as local and parliamentary elections in Scotland, making use of Scotland’s unique electoral management structure, co-ordinated by the Electoral Management Board.

The regulation and monitoring of the referendum campaign will be undertaken by the Electoral Commission which will also issue a range of guidance.  The Commission will also report on the referendum process after it has been completed.  In its responsibilities for this referendum the Commission will report to the Scottish Parliament.

In line with international best practice the franchise for the referendum on Scotland’s constitutional future will reflect residency in Scotland.  Eligibility to vote will be the same as for Scottish Parliament and local government elections and for the 1997 referendum on devolution.

Read the consultation document Your Scotland Your Voice

Find more information on the referendum

View a timetable for full public and parliamentary consideration of the proposals