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Your Questions Answered

What is the purpose of the document, Choosing Scotland 's Future?

The document describes the basis for a National Conversation about Scotland's constitutional future, describing the current set up of the Scottish Parliament and exploring areas where further devolution might be possible and the additional steps needed for independence.

What is the Government's view?

The Government is a Scottish National Party Government and it states clearly that it intends to make the case for independence. However, the Government also says that it recognises the range of views in Scotland and the Parliament, and the paper explores how devolution could be extended in many other areas as part of constitutional development.

Why is a referendum necessary? Can't MSPs just hold a vote?

It would be possible for Holyrood and Westminster to pass legislation to effect independence or further devolution. However, it is accepted that as significant a change as independence would - like devolution - require the explicit support of the people of Scotland in a referendum.

Who will decide the actual wording of the referendum question?

The wording of the question would be in the legislation for a referendum whether this is passed by the Scottish Parliament or by Westminster.

Will a referendum result be binding on a future government?

Technically, referendums in the UK have generally been advisory or consultative, i.e. is they do not have legal force. However the moral and political force of a vote for independence would be enormous, and impossible for a future Government to ignore. A negative vote would similarly have a political consequence.

Does the Government favour a multi-option referendum?

Choosing Scotland's Future discusses that option. A multi-option referendum could well emerge as a strong possibility during the National Conversation.

When will a draft Referendum Bill be laid before the Scottish Parliament?

The Government is committed to a referendum on negotiations for independence in the lifetime of this Parliament but decisions on this will be made as the National Conversation proceeds.

Isn't all of this outside the competence of the Scottish Government/Parliament?

No. It is entirely proper for the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament to discuss the constitutional future of Scotland and invite the people of Scotland to express their views. Previous administrations have discussed and agreed changes in devolved competence with the UK Government. The mechanisms in the Scotland Act envisage both Parliaments agreeing to changes in devolved competence.

Is it possible for the Scottish Parliament to hold a referendum on independence? Is it not ultra vires?

As the paper says (Para 5.11 and page 35), as far as legislative competence is concerned, a referendum could be held under the authority of an Act of the Scottish Parliament depending on the precise proposition in the referendum Bill or any adjustments made to the competence of the Parliament before the Bill is introduced.

Has the UK Government been consulted as this paper was prepared?

The UK Government has not been involved in drafting but has been informed of the production of the document and was given an advance copy.

How can I contribute to the national conversation?

The best way to contribute to the conversation is through this website. People can both contribute to the on line blog at that site, an e-mail and a postal address is also available for questions. Information on how to join in

Copies of the paper have been sent to public libraries. It can be downloaded at this website. It is also on sale through Blackwells, the official distributor to the Government, at a cost of £10.

What is the timescale for this national conversation?

There is no fixed timescale. The Government envisages a further event later this year on the general conversation and on individual elements of the paper, such as broadcasting. The overall aim of the Government is to gather support for a referendum in the course of this Parliament.