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People and Communities: Taking forward our National Conversation

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1 Introduction

The National Conversation

1.1 Choosing Scotland's Future1 is the basis for a National Conversation on the type of government which will best equip Scotland for the future. The aim of the National Conversation is to promote an inclusive, open and full debate about available constitutional options. This report is part of the ongoing debate 2. It is the Scottish Government's belief, however, that independence is the natural state for nations like Scotland and that only with complete responsibility for its own affairs and fiscal framework can Scotland could reach its full potential as a truly successful nation in a global economy. As the culmination of this debate, the Scottish Government will publish a White Paper on St Andrew's Day 2009. The Scottish Government will then introduce a Referendum Bill to Parliament in 2010 so that a referendum can be held on Scotland's constitutional future.

1.2 This paper focuses on housing, law and order, children, health and aspects of transport - areas where the devolved responsibilities of the Scottish Parliament and Government come closest to a complete set of responsibilities to make laws and policy for Scotland, but which nevertheless are subject to important limitations under the 1998 devolution legislation.

1.3 The paper also considers the recommendations of the Commission on Scottish Devolution relating to these issues. The Commission's recommendations are essentially that there should be little alteration in Scottish Parliament responsibilities in these policy areas. The Commission's remit was, however, constrained and it could not consider independence. The National Conversation allows the opportunity to consider and to debate more fundamental options.

1.4 This paper is structured as follows:

  • Chapter 2 examines the implications of the current devolution arrangements;
  • Chapter 3 considers the potential impact of the Commission on Scottish Devolution recommendations;
  • Chapter 4 examines what the future could look like under more extensive devolution or complete independence; and
  • Chapter 5 presents conclusions.