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by Kirsteen Paterson
24 July 2023
Scottish Government to publish citizenship plans for independent Scotland

Jamie Hepburn at the Scottish Parliament

Scottish Government to publish citizenship plans for independent Scotland

"Fairer and more welcoming" citizenship rules for an independent Scotland will be set out this week, independence minister Jamie Hepburn has said.

The Scottish Government will publish its policy proposals for citizenship in a sovereign state on Thursday.

The paper will be the fifth in the Building a New Scotland series, which began under the leadership of Nicola Sturgeon. It comes one month after the fourth paper, which covered a written constitution, was unveiled in Glasgow.

Citizenship matters are currently reserved to Westminster. The new document will set out criteria for automatic citizenship following independence as well as qualification rules for others. Proposals for a Scottish passport and consular assistance abroad will also be included, along with rights for migrants and freedom of movement.

The publication comes amidst tensions between the Scottish and UK governments over the use of the civil service for work on independence. UK Cabinet secretary Simon Case, the head of the civil service, said mandarins in Scotland may be issued new guidance within weeks in light of the officials supporting Hepburn. John-Paul Marks, Scotland's most senior civil servant, has defended the work, saying staff work "with impartiality" and "it has been well understood under devolution for many years that the civil service in the Scottish Government serves the Scottish Government and their priorities".

Hepburn said: "As an independent nation, Scotland would have the opportunity to redefine what it means to be a citizen of this country, building on our inclusive national identity and sense of collective purpose. Independence would also enable us to take a fairer and more welcoming approach to citizenship to make it easier for those who have made Scotland their home to settle here permanently, helping to grow our population and support our communities and public services.

"The proposals in this paper explain how we plan to achieve these aims, on the way to rejoining the European Union as an independent nation, and I look forward to setting them out with the First Minister on Thursday."

However, former Labour MP Pamela Nash, who heads the Scotland in Union campaign group, said: "Taxpayers will find it galling that the SNP is forcing them to bankroll another fantasy document. There are so many other matters the Scottish Government should be focusing on."

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