Independence referendum bill published by Scottish government

Independence referendum bill published by Scottish government

Michael Russell

Draft legislation to provide for a fresh referendum on Scottish independence has been published by the Scottish government ahead of the May elections.

Ministers say it will be up to the government formed after the elections to consider whether to formally introduce its proposed Scottish Independence Referendum Bill to Holyrood.

The draft bill proposes a referendum on the question “Should Scotland be an independent country?”, subject to a test by the Electoral Commission, with the same election franchise as used for Holyrood and local government elections.

It does not propose a date for the referendum. Ministers believe it should be held in the first half of the new parliamentary term, but not until after the Covid-19 pandemic ends.

Constitution Secretary Michael Russell said: “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.”

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