The Scottish Government has published its draft referendum bill on independence today (25th February 2010), which it will put out for consultation.
The draft Referendum Bill outlines the options that voters will have and was described by First Minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond, as an opportunity for the Scottish people to decide the future of Scotland as a nation. The bill outlines two options that will be put on separate ballot papers, with the first asking if voters want Scotland to have new devolved powers and the second will ask if “The parliament’s powers should also be extended to enable independence to be achieved.”
The consultation presents the public with two alternative questions for the first ballot. The first option regards granting maximum devolution in all areas for Scotland, with the exception of defence, foreign affairs and finance regulation and the second option available regards giving Scotland the much more limited recommendations of the Calman Report.
The draft Bill also includes rules about the conduct of the poll and earlier this week it was announced that a Scottish Referendum Commission would be set up to oversee the future poll. The Celtic League wrote to the European Union this year to ask if it would consider sending election observers to monitor any referendum vote to ensure that no unfair practices occur.
Speaking today at the launch of the consultation, First Minister Salmond said:
“The Scottish Government believe in the sovereignty of the people. And as set out in the manifesto on which we were elected, we are committed to giving people the opportunity to express their views in a referendum.
“The importance of referendums on constitutional matters across the UK is clear, with the National Assembly for Wales having voted unanimously for a referendum to extend its powers, and Westminster backing a referendum on reforming the electoral system. There is no reason why Scotland should be treated differently, or less democratically.
“More than 10 years on from the establishment of the Scottish Parliament, the debate in Scotland is no longer about whether or not the Parliament should take on new responsibilities – it is about the form of change, and that issue underpins the consultation. The people want our Parliament to be able to do more, so the debate is now about how much more. And it is time the people had their say.
“I believe that the future prosperity and development of our country is best served by Scotland becoming independent, and the Scottish Government would campaign for a ‘Yes-Yes’ vote in the referendum – ‘yes’ to more responsibilities for the Parliament, and ‘yes’ to additional powers to enable independence to be achieved. “‘Yes-Yes’ was the winning campaign in 1997 – and will be a winning campaign for Scotland again.
“The case for an independent Scotland is stronger and more urgent following the economic crisis. It is exactly the powers and flexibility offered by independence that Scotland needs in order to support recovery now, and deal effectively with the challenges and opportunities of the future. But I recognise that there are also those who argue that the responsibilities of the Scottish Parliament should be extended in more limited ways.
“The draft Bill reflects that and provides the framework for a referendum shaped by the people of Scotland. I look forward to the consultation, the debate on the Bill – and to campaigning for a ‘Yes-Yes’ vote in the referendum itself.”
The Celtic League took part in the National Conversation consultation that ran from August 2007 to November 2009 and plans to also contribute to the Referendum (Scotland) Bill consultation, which runs between Thursday February 25 and closes on Friday April 30 2010.
This article prepared for Celtic News by Rhisiart Tal-e-bot General Secretary Celtic League. For follow-up comment or clarification contact:
Tel: 0044 (0)1209315884