THE WAY FORWARD
In this paper the Scottish Government has set out its views on the principles which should underpin further devolution, tests that any proposals should meet and specific proposals for maximum self-government for Scotland that we believe are consistent with those principles and comply with the tests. We are publishing them to inform the discussions that are being convened by Lord Smith and to inform the people of Scotland about the Scottish Government's objectives and approach.
Scotland was changed irrevocably by the referendum last month. The level of participation in the vote and in the debates and campaign that led up to it was unprecedented. Attendance at public meetings, the spontaneous organisation of community and campaign groups, and vigorous debate on social media all demonstrated a level of engagement in our democracy not seen for decades. It is crucial to the future of Scotland that this energy, imagination and commitment is maintained and built on in the years ahead.
Against this background it is vital that proposals for further devolution are put before the people of Scotland in a way that engages their full participation. The Scottish Government therefore welcomes Lord Smith's commitment to involve civic society and the people of Scotland in an inclusive process.
The Scottish Government is determined to involve the people of Scotland fully in all our processes and policies, building on our plans for community empowerment. As part of that we welcome discussion of the proposals in this paper. Its publication is therefore the start of the Scottish Government's own conversation with the people of Scotland on the future governance of our country within the United Kingdom.
In the Edinburgh Agreement of 2012, the Scottish and UK Governments committed to continue to work together constructively in the light of the outcome of the referendum, whatever it was, in the best interests of the people of Scotland and of the rest of the United Kingdom. To that end the Scottish Government is participating in the Smith Commission process with the aim of achieving an agreement that is good not just for Scotland but for the whole of the United Kingdom. We recognise that there is an active constitutional debate in all parts of the United Kingdom and will work with our partners across these islands to further our common interests in democracy, fairness and prosperity. It would be unacceptable, however - given the promises that were made to the Scottish people during the referendum campaign - for progress on further devolution to Scotland to be delayed by consideration of wider issues such as 'English votes for English laws'.
Once the Smith Commission's conclusions have been published, it will be for the governments of Scotland and the UK to work together on proposals for further devolution and to take those to the Scottish and UK Parliaments for approval. Under the Sewel Convention, the consent of the Scottish Parliament is required for any changes to its powers or those of the Scottish Government.
There are elements of our proposals that can be implemented quickly and simply through order-making powers already available under the Scotland Act 1998. For example, the UK Parliament and Government could move immediately to devolve control to the Scottish Parliament of its own elections, in time to allow 16 and 17 year olds to vote in the Scottish Parliament elections in 2016. Proposals for devolving the Crown Estate are well developed and have attracted widespread support over a number of years.
Other aspects of the proposals set out in this paper are better implemented through an Act of Parliament at Westminster following a Legislative Consent Motion at Holyrood. We expect the UK Government to proceed with that on the timetable that it set out before the referendum and we will play our full part to enable that to happen.
The Scottish Government encourages all interested parties to take up Lord Smith's invitation to participate in his process. Details can be found at www.smith-commission.scot.