Government launches consultation on new independence referendum
THE SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT has launched a draft bill on a new Scottish independence referendum.
The Scottish Independence Referendum Act 2017 draft proposes that the Scottish Parliament should consider a public poll on independence following the vote in England and Wales to exit the European Union, while a majority of voters in Scotland decided to remain.
Closely mirroring the 2013 referendum act, the government states it has a clear mandate to consider a referendum if it becomes necessary to protect the national democratic interest.
In the consultation, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon states that she remains committed to trying to find the best possible deal from the Brexit process – with a referendum likely if Scotland is not treated as “an equal partner” by the Westminster government.
“In the immediate aftermath of the EU referendum, as we face the social, economic and financial damage that leaving the EU will bring, I made it clear that I would explore all options to protect Scotland’s vital national interests and that the Scottish Government would begin, in line with the commitment we were elected on, to prepare the required legislation to enable a new independence referendum to be held if it became clear that was the only or best way of protecting those interests,” Sturgeon said.
“We will put forward constructive proposals that will both protect Scotland’s interests and give an opportunity for the UK Government to demonstrate that Scotland is indeed an equal partner,” Sturgeon added.
“But if it becomes clear that it is only through independence that Scotland’s interests can be protected, then the people of Scotland must have the ability to reconsider that question, and to do so before the UK leaves the EU.”
The consultation will run until January 11 2017, shortly before the Tory government are expected to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty on exiting the European Union.
The Article 50 process, in theory, lasts two years. It has never before been used.
There remains little clarity from the Westminster Government on what its negotiating position will be on Brexit, the residency status of EU nationals or the future rights of migrants and businesses in the UK.
A future referendum would take place in the context of a Tory majority government at a UK level, which only won a single seat in Scotland at the 2015 general election.
‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’ ‘Yes or No.’
The right to vote
All registered voters in Scotland over the age of 16 on polling day.
This includes UK, Commonwealth, Irish, and EU citizens resident in Scotland.
The next step
After the consultation is concluded, the Scottish Government can decide whether to introduce the bill to parliament for debate.
Section 30 order
For the 2013 act, the Westminster government agreed a section 30 order for the referendum to be legally binding.
The draft bill summary states: “If the Scottish Government decides to formally introduce the bill to parliament, it would be expected that a section 30 order would be sought and agreed, as in 2014.”
Picture courtesy of Maria Navarro Sololla
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