Political and Constitutional Reform CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by Nicola Sturgeon MSP, Deputy First Minister, Scottish Parliament

1. It was good to meet you when you were in Edinburgh last week and I hope you and your fellow Committee members enjoyed the best that Scottish hospitality has to offer during your stay. I hear that the evidence session on Thursday generated some interesting and diverse opinions and I hope that it proved helpful to the Committee.

2. I undertook to provide written evidence on behalf of Scottish Ministers to the Committee’s inquiry into whether there is a need for a constitutional convention for the UK. I have set out that evidence below.

3. It is the firm opinion of the Scottish Government that the future of Scotland is for the Scottish people to determine. Before the Act of Union in 1707, Scotland was both a nation and a state, and within the United Kingdom, sovereignty still lies with the people of Scotland. That principle has its origins in the Declaration of Arbroath of 1320, it was refined by George Buchanan in the late 16th century, and it was restated in Scotland’s first Claim of Right in 1689. Three hundred years later, in 1989, a new Claim of Right was proclaimed by the Scottish Constitutional Convention.

4. The Scottish Government has a clear agenda for the future for Scotland—a future that is an independent Scotland. That is why we are holding a referendum on Scotland’s future in November 2014.We believe that there a strong and positive case for independence. That case is based on a simple, but fundamental, premise: The people best placed to take decisions about Scotland’s future are the people who choose to live and work in Scotland. Ultimately, independence is the best means by which people in Scotland can shape their own future. It is the best means by which our economy can grow more strongly and sustainably by which we can fulfil our potential and realise our aspirations; and by which we can take our rightful place as a responsible member of the world community.

5. A successful, efficient, confident Scottish Parliament will, in our view, continue to lead to increased demands for independence. People in Scotland have, by and large, liked what the Parliament has done with its existing powers. And as a result, they want more. The Scotland Act 2012 gave further powers to the Scottish Parliament, but it is the view of the Scottish Government that they do not go far enough. The Scottish Government’s consultation on the referendum encouraged a wide debate on these issues, involving all of Scotland’s political parties, and involving civic Scotland—the organisations and communities which make up the fabric of the community of the realm of Scotland. We will be publishing the results of that consultation shortly.

6. It is my sincere hope that Scotland will vote yes to independence in the referendum in 2014. With a yes vote, we have proposed that the first elections to an independent Scottish Parliament should take place in May 2016.

7. On independence the relations between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom would be conducted on an equal footing between two sovereign governments. A strong partnership between Scotland and the UK Government would enable us to work together on areas of mutual interest and advantage. We would require intergovernmental machinery to manage the new relationship and to gain maximum benefit from the partnership. With a positive vote for independence in Scotland, the countries that make up the British Isles will want to discuss the form of this intergovernmental machinery. We can look to positive models such as the British Irish Council, whose purpose is to allow the governments of these islands to discuss issues of shared interest in an environment in which mutual respect is paramount. The Council currently includes the governments of three island groups, three devolved nations and two independent states.

8. In conclusion it is apparent to all that a yes vote in the referendum on independence for Scotland will have constitutional implications for the rest of the UK. The Scottish Government’s aim is for independence, and I am clear that, just as it is for the people of Scotland to determine the future of Scotland, it is for the rest of the United Kingdom to determine the future of the rest of the UK. A positive vote for independence will lead to discussions with the other countries of these islands on the makeup of our future relationship, and it would be for the Scottish Government to represent Scotland in those discussions. I hope that this is helpful in setting out the Scottish Government’s position.

October 2012

Prepared 28th March 2013