Immediate Supreme Court reference.
The next steps on securing a referendum on independence have been outlined by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon during a statement to Parliament.
“Independence is about equipping ourselves to navigate the future, guided by our own values, aspirations and interests.
“Now is the time - at this critical moment in history - to debate and decide the future of our country. Now is the time to get Scotland on the right path – the path chosen by those who live here. Now is the time for independence.
“This parliament has a clear, democratic mandate to offer Scotland that choice. The UK government, regrettably however, is refusing to respect Scottish democracy.
“The UK and Scottish Governments should be sitting down together, responsibly agreeing a process, including a section 30 order, that allows the Scottish people to decide. That would be the democratic way to proceed.
“The issue of independence cannot be suppressed. It must be resolved democratically. And that must be through a process that is above reproach and commands confidence.
“That is why I am setting out today the actions the Scottish Government and the Lord Advocate will take, in the absence of a section 30 order, to secure Scotland’s right to choose.
“I can announce, first of all, that the Scottish Government is today publishing the ‘Scottish Independence Referendum Bill’.
“In common with the 2014 referendum - indeed, in common with the Brexit referendum and the referendum to establish this Parliament - the independence referendum proposed in the Bill will be consultative, not self-executing.
“The Bill states that the question on the ballot paper should be - just as it was in 2014 - ‘should Scotland be an independent country’.
“There has been much commentary in recent days to the effect that a consultative referendum would not have the same status as the vote in 2014.
“That is simply wrong, factually and legally.
“The status of the referendum proposed in this Bill is exactly the same as the referendums of 1997, 2014 and 2016.
“The Bill includes the proposed date on which the referendum should be held.
“I can announce that the Scottish Government is proposing that the independence referendum be held on 19 October 2023.
“We must seek now to accelerate to the point when we have legal clarity; legal fact. And crucially, in doing so establish and safeguard the ability of this Parliament to deliver a referendum on the date proposed.
“The Lord Advocate has agreed to make a reference of the provisions in the Bill to the Supreme Court.
“I can confirm that the reference will be filed with the Supreme Court this afternoon.
“Obviously, it is this government’s hope that the question in this Bill, proposing a referendum that is consultative, not self-executing, and which would seek to ascertain the views of the Scottish people for or against independence, will be deemed to be within the legislative competence of this Parliament.
“If that outcome is secured, there will be no doubt whatsoever that the referendum is lawful. And I can confirm that the government will then immediately introduce the Bill and ask Parliament to pass the it on a timescale that allows the referendum to proceed on 19 October 2023.
“It is, of course, possible that the Supreme Court will decide that the Scottish Parliament does not have power to legislate for even a consultative referendum. Obviously, that would not be the clarity we hope for.
“But if that is what the law establishing this Parliament really means, it is better to have that clarity sooner rather than later.
“Because what it will clarify is this: any notion of the UK as a voluntary union of nations is a fiction. Any suggestion that the UK is a partnership of equals is false.
“There would be few stronger or more powerful arguments for independence than that.
“And it would not be the end of the matter. Far from it. Democracy demands that people must have their say.
“I want the process set in train today to lead to a lawful, constitutional referendum and for that to take place on 19 October 2023.
“But if the law says that is not possible, the General Election will be a ‘de facto’ referendum.
“Either way, the people of Scotland will have their say.”
“To believe in Scottish independence is to believe in a better future. It involves an unashamedly optimistic view of the world. The belief that things can be better than they are now.
“The people of Scotland have told us that they want the right to decide.
“Today we have set out the path to deliver it.”
The First Minister made a statement to Parliament outlining the process for an independence referendum.
A letter to the Prime Minister has been sent to inform him of the content of the statement and make clear that the Scottish Government is ready and willing to negotiate the terms of a section 30 order.
Under paragraph 34 of schedule 6 to the Scotland Act the Lord Advocate has the power to refer to the Supreme Court the question of whether provisions in the draft “Scottish Independence Referendum Bill” relate to reserved matters. This is a power exercisable solely by the Lord Advocate, not by Scottish Ministers collectively.
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