Referendums Bill

Legal framework set out for referendums in Scotland.


The Scottish Government has today published legislation to set the rules for any referendum within the competence of the Scottish Parliament.

The Referendums (Scotland) Bill will provide a legal framework for the holding of referendums on any matters within Scotland’s control. It is intended that the Bill will have completed its parliamentary progress by the end of this calendar year.

The Bill includes provision for the date, question and referendum period to be set by secondary legislation. For a referendum on independence, it is proposed that this would take place following a transfer of power, ensuring such a referendum could not be legally challenged.

Putting in a framework in Scotland would allow a future referendum to take place in a timely fashion.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:

“Now, more than ever, it is essential that we keep Scotland’s options open so that people have the opportunity to choose a better future.

“An independence referendum within this parliamentary term will give Scotland the opportunity to choose to be an independent European nation - rather than have a Brexit future imposed upon us.

“Throughout the Brexit process, Scotland has been treated with contempt by Westminster, and our efforts to find compromise and protect the interests of the people of Scotland, who voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU, have been ignored.

“We will seek agreement to a transfer of power at an appropriate point to enable an independence referendum that is beyond challenge to be held later in this parliament. It is essential the UK Government recognises that it would be a democratic outrage if it seeks to block such a referendum – indeed, any such stance would, in my view, prove to be utterly unsustainable.”

Government Business and Constitutional Relations Secretary Michael Russell said:

“Although referendums have become an increasingly common feature of UK democracy, it is a long time since the framework governing them was last comprehensively reviewed.

“Introducing a standing framework for referendums is a reasonable thing for any country or Parliament to have and this legislation will put Scotland in the same position as the UK and many other countries.”



The aim of the Referendums (Scotland) Bill is to provide clarity on the process for voters, campaigners and those administering the process, to ensure all referendums are run to the highest possible international standards and the results are accepted by all parties.

A referendums framework exists under Westminster legislation - in the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000.

The Referendums (Scotland) Bill can be found here



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