Scottish independence: constitutional implications of the referendum - Constitution Committee Contents



    On 18 September 2014 Scottish voters will decide whether Scotland should become an independent country. There has been extensive debate about the impact of independence. This report focuses on what the constitutional implications for the rest of the UK would be were a "yes" vote to be returned.

    Of prime importance would be whether the rest of the United Kingdom would be the "continuator" state, retaining its current international status and institutions. The evidence we received demonstrated that it would, and that an independent Scotland would be a new "successor" state. This would have significant implications for negotiations about independence following a "yes" vote. It would mean that UK institutions (including Parliament, the BBC and the Bank of England) would remain institutions of the rest of the UK. It would affect how assets and liabilities would be apportioned, with certain assets apportioned in accordance with legal principles and other assets and liabilities subject to political negotiations, based on the principle of equity.

    Statements by UK Government ministers suggest that they would cease to represent the interests of Scotland immediately after a "yes" vote. We conclude that this would create constitutional difficulties: while the political dynamic would have changed, the UK Government would continue to have international and domestic responsibilities for Scotland between a "yes" vote and the date of independence. Arrangements would need to be made to ensure that Scotland continued to be represented internationally. On domestic matters reserved to the UK Parliament, the Scottish Government should be consulted during this period on long-term decisions primarily or solely affecting Scotland.

    MPs for Scottish constituencies should remain in Parliament until Scotland became independent and leave at that point. Any changes in their status after a "yes" vote being returned, and the timing of their departure from Parliament, would need to be settled quickly. The same issue would not arise for Scottish peers who sit as peers of the United Kingdom; under current law they would, however, need to be taxpayers in the remaining UK to continue to sit.

    We recommend that, to avoid any risk of legal challenge, a bill should be introduced soon after a "yes" vote to establish a negotiating team for the rest of the UK and to devolve to the Scottish Parliament power to do the same for Scotland. A small team representing the UK Government should negotiate for the rest of the UK, in consultation with the official opposition and the Welsh and Northern Irish executives. MPs representing Scottish constituencies should not negotiate for the rest of the UK, hold those negotiators to account nor ratify the outcome of the negotiations. There would be no constitutional or legal necessity to adhere to the Scottish Government's proposed timetable of independence in March 2016.

    Following negotiations, UK legislation would be needed to end the UK Parliament's jurisdiction over Scotland and to enact the results of negotiations.

    previous page contents next page

    © Parliamentary copyright 2014