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by Andrew Learmonth
22 March 2021
SNP publish draft legislation for new independence referendum

SNP publish draft legislation for new independence referendum

THE SCOTTISH Government has published its draft bill for a second independence referendum, with the SNP administration promising a new vote on the constitution “once the public health crisis is over”.

SNP constitution secretary Michael Russell said the preference of ministers was to have the poll in the first half of the next parliament, which could mean any time between 2021 and the middle of 2023.

The Scottish Conservatives said the government's motivation for publishing details today was more about "distracting people from the Sturgeon-Salmond scandal."

The draft independence referendum bill details a number of key issues, including the wording of the question on the ballot paper. 

The SNP are keen for voters to be asked “should Scotland be an independent country?"

While that was the question used during the 2014 referendum, the Electoral Commission has since said they would want to assess the wording ahead of any future vote. In 2016, they rejected a yes/no approach for the EU referendum.

Russell said: “Our top priority will continue to be dealing with the pandemic and keeping the country safe, but we are optimistic that because of the incredible efforts of people across Scotland better times lie ahead.

“The Scottish Government believes it should be the people living in Scotland who have the right to decide how we recover from the pandemic and what sort of country we wish to build after the crisis.

“If Westminster maintains its control, recent history shows what Scotland can expect: an economic recovery hindered by a hard Brexit that is already taking a significant toll and the continued, systematic undermining of devolution, which is weakening our parliament’s powers to maintain food and environmental standards and protect the NHS from post-Brexit trade deals.

“Scotland’s recovery should be made by the people who live here and who care most about Scotland. That is why Scotland’s future should be Scotland’s choice.

“It should be for the next Scottish Parliament to decide the timing of the referendum. So that the recovery from the pandemic can be made in Scotland, the Scottish Government believes it should be held in the first half of the new Parliamentary term.

“If there is a majority in the Scottish Parliament after the forthcoming election for an independence referendum there can be no democratic justification whatsoever for any Westminster government to seek to block a post-pandemic referendum.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie was stunned by the publication. He said: "Holy moly, they've had people working on the referendum instead of dealing with the pandemic.

"Dozens of civil servants could have been planning to get cancer services running full speed but they've been ordered to do this instead. Or they could have been working on getting funds to business, better mental health services or support for schools.

“We are still in a pandemic. Thousands have lost their lives, thousands more have lost their job.

“Reasonable people will think that this is the wrong moment to be pushing a referendum.

"We should put recovery first and bin this bill."

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross agreed. He said: "It is beyond the comprehension of most Scots that Nicola Sturgeon considers this to be a priority.

"Scotland continues to be gripped by the global pandemic and even once normality slowly returns, the shockwaves will be felt for years to come.

"The SNP Government is mired in sleaze with nothing left to offer except yet more division and grievance.

“The motivation for this is as much to do with distracting people from the Sturgeon-Salmond scandal

"A responsible government would be entirely focused on Scotland's post-pandemic recovery, but Sturgeon and her ministers have become detached from reality and the priorities of ordinary families."

Labour MSP Colin Smyth said: "The focus for all of Scotland’s politicians should be on bringing the country together, and an independence referendum is not a priority at this time.

“Scottish Labour will focus on what unites us, not what divides us.

“In contrast to the SNP and Boris Johnson’s Tories, Scottish Labour will put our national recovery first."

However, Scottish Greens co-leader Lorna Slater said her party would support the government. She said: “Scotland’s future must be in the hands of those who live and work in Scotland, and the Scottish Greens are asking people to vote like our future depends on it this May. Our manifesto will support a referendum on our shared future, and polls show we may be crucial in ensuring this bill passes.”


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