Scotland's Independence Referendum Bill

Friday, 26 February 2010

Yesterday morning Alex Salmond, Scotland's First Minister, published the Independence Referendum Bill consultation document which offered opposition parties the chance to frame a question on alternatives to outright secession. The proposals in the draft Bill are now out to a nine week consultation.

The proposal is for a referendum with two questions on two separate ballot papers and mirrors the approach of the 1997 referendum on the Scottish Parliament. You can see a copy of the Bill here.

First voters would be asked to vote 'yes' or 'no' on whether they support the Scottish parliament being given new devolved powers.

The consultation paper offers two alternatives for this question: one based on the so-called 'devolution max' option of giving Holyrood control of everything except defence, foreign affairs and financial regulation and another based on the more limited powers put forward by the Calman Commission.

They will then be asked whether "the parliament's powers should also be extended to enable independence to be achieved".

About a third of Scotland's people want independence but the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey issued in January showed 69% want to see their parliament take on more responsibility.

Scotland's opposition parties been giving their usual anti-soundbites against the Bill. "Unnecessary and unwanted", "a vanity project", "waste of money", "putting narrow nationalism ahead of the interests of Scotland" - all protestations we've heard before.

Whether one supports independence or not, there is one serious aspect of this Bill. It offers the Scottish people the chance to vote for their own futures in a referendum. Opposition parties must remember that when they are refusing to acknowledge this Bill, they are refusing the Scots the chance to decide their own futures.

Yesterday the unionist parties ignored questioning the FM on the subject at FMQs. They can't continue to ignore it for long. There are many throughout the UK who have long desired a referendum on the EU and been promised one by both labour and the tories - yet they have been openly conned. They will be watching this closely and see a government, who promised the people a referendum, fight for the right to achieve their objective. The actions of those against this right will also be closely observed.



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