Foreword by the Deputy First Minister
The Scottish Government has an ambitious vision of the kind of nation Scotland should be - a thriving and successful European country, reflecting Scottish values of fairness and opportunity, and promoting prosperity and social cohesion. A Scotland with a new place in the world as an independent nation, participating fully in Europe and the community of nations, on the basis of equality, responsibility and friendship.
The Government is clear that this vision must be realised to allow our ancient nation to fulfil its potential. In the autumn of 2014 the people of Scotland will have the opportunity to gain the powers that independent nations throughout the world take for granted: powers to create jobs, encourage sustainable economic growth, secure social justice, tackle inequality and promote fairness.
This paper shows how an independent Scotland can seize this opportunity by putting in place a modern written constitution that embodies the values of the nation, secures the rights of citizens, provides a clear distinction between the state and the government of the day, and guarantees a relationship of respect and trust between the institutions of the nation and its people.
In developing a new written constitution, Scotland will be able to learn from the innovative and participative approaches of other countries. The process of creating a written constitution in Scotland should be energising and include parties from across the political spectrum and, even more significantly, wider society. Most importantly however, the process should ensure that the sovereign people of Scotland can be centrally involved in designing and determining a written constitution as the blueprint for our country's future.
A 'yes' vote for independence in 2014 is a vote for the transfer of sovereignty from Westminster to the people of Scotland. While some legal and practical changes will be needed to make sure the Parliament can exercise its new authority, wider constitutional and policy changes will be the responsibility of the first elected Parliament and Government of an independent Scotland, following the election in May 2016.
The Government's intention is that a constitutional platform will be put in place for Scotland becoming independent in March 2016, immediately prior to the 2016 election campaign. That will ensure that the new Parliament and Government elected in May 2016 have the full range of powers they need to get on with the work of building a better and more socially just Scotland. This paper describes the essential features of that platform - principally the completion of the powers of the Scottish Parliament, the consolidation of existing rights of citizens, and continuity in relation to key issues such as the monarchy and Scots law. The constitutional platform will be put in place following negotiations between the Scottish and UK Governments. The historic Edinburgh Agreement between the governments in October 2012, along with the recent passage by the Scottish and UK Parliaments of a section 30 order clarifying the Scottish Parliament's powers to hold the referendum, are a template for a post-referendum transfer of powers from Westminster to Scotland. In the spirit of the Edinburgh Agreement, negotiations on the completion of the Scottish Parliament's powers after a 'yes' vote will be concluded constructively and co-operatively in the best interests of the people of Scotland and of the rest of the United Kingdom.
This paper is a first contribution to implementing the recommendation of the Electoral Commission that the two governments clarify the process that will follow the referendum. We agree with the Commission's view that the Scottish and UK Governments should agree a joint position, and have proposed to the UK Government that we now engage in discussions on the process of the transition to independence in advance of the vote.
This initial paper will be followed in the coming months by papers outlining how responsibility in key reserved areas, for example welfare and pensions, will transfer to the Scottish Parliament.
This paper will also support discussion with organisations across Scottish society, academic experts and, most importantly, the Scottish people. The Government will continue to listen and discuss these important issues through open debate in advance of publication of the White Paper on independence in the autumn of this year.
Nicola Sturgeon MSP
Deputy First Minister of Scotland