Referendum on Scottish
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
"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
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.
3. The UK Government published a consultation
paper entitled Scotland's Constitutional Future on 10 January
2012 (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 (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
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. (http://votesnp.com/campaigns/SNP_Manifesto_2011_lowRes.pdf).
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
See: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/0038/00386122.pdf. 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