Referendum on Scottish Independence - Constitution Committee Contents

Referendum on Scottish Independence

Chapter 1: Introduction

1.  The Scottish National Party (SNP) won an overall majority of seats in the Scottish Parliament in the Scottish parliamentary elections of May 2011. The SNP's 2011 manifesto included the following commitment:

"Independence will only happen when the people in Scotland vote for it … We think the people of Scotland should decide our nation's future in a democratic referendum … We will, therefore, bring forward our Referendum Bill in this next Parliament. A yes vote will mean Scotland becomes an independent nation …"[1]

2.  In the previous Parliament the SNP had formed a minority administration. The then Scottish Government published a Draft Referendum (Scotland) Bill in early 2010, but no Bill has been introduced into the Scottish Parliament.[2]

3.  The UK Government published a consultation paper entitled Scotland's Constitutional Future on 10 January 2012[3] (the consultation period will close on 9 March). The Scottish Government then published a consultation paper, entitled Your Scotland, Your Referendum, on 25 January 2012[4] (the deadline for responses is 11 May).

4.  The UK Government have accepted that the question of Scottish independence is one for the people of Scotland to determine. In their Preface to Scotland's Constitutional Future, the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister wrote that:

"We want to keep the United Kingdom together. But we recognise that the Scottish Government holds the opposite view … We will not stand in the way of a referendum on independence: the future of Scotland's place within the United Kingdom is for people in Scotland to vote on."

In his Foreword to Your Scotland, Your Referendum, the First Minister wrote that:

"Scotland is not oppressed and we have no need to be liberated. Independence matters because we do not have the powers to reach our potential."

5.  The two Governments' respective consultation papers raise a variety of constitutional and legal issues, which cluster around two main points: the power to hold a referendum on Scottish independence and the nature and design of the referendum question. We consider these in turn.

1   Scottish National Party Manifesto 2011, p 28. (  Back

2   See:  Back

3   Cm 8203. An accompanying Ministerial Statement was made in the House of Commons by the Secretary of State for Scotland, the Rt Hon Michael Moore MP (HC Deb, 10 January 2012, cols 51-72) and was repeated in the House of Lords by the Advocate General for Scotland, the Rt Hon Lord Wallace of Tankerness (HL Deb, 10 January 2012, cols 61-72).  Back

4   See: An accompanying statement was made to the Scottish Parliament by the First Minister, the Rt Hon Alex Salmond MSP (Official Report, 25 January, cols 5603-21).  Back

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