Scottish independence

Landmark draft Bill published for future referendum.

A draft independence referendum Bill has been published to give people in Scotland the right to decide their future, once the current health crisis is over.

Constitution Secretary Michael Russell said the draft Bill is being brought forward to offer Scotland the choice of who is best placed to lead the country’s post-pandemic recovery – the people who live here or a government based in Westminster.

The draft Scottish Independence Referendum Bill publication sets out a number of key issues for a vote including:

  • the timing of a referendum should be a matter for the next Scottish Parliament to decide. Ministers have separately made clear it should take place once the public health crisis is over
  • the question “Should Scotland be an independent country?" is the same one used during the 2014 referendum and it will be tested by the Electoral Commission
  • voting eligibility will be extended to match the franchise at Scottish Parliament and local government elections

The draft Bill has been published on the Scottish Government’s website. It will be for a future Scottish Government to consider whether it formally introduces a Bill in the Scottish Parliament.

Mr Russell said:

“Our top priority will continue to be dealing with the pandemic and keeping the country safe, but we are optimistic that because of the incredible efforts of people across Scotland better times lie ahead.

“The Scottish Government believes it should be the people living in Scotland who have the right to decide how we recover from the pandemic and what sort of country we wish to build after the crisis.

“If Westminster maintains its control, recent history shows what Scotland can expect: an economic recovery hindered by a hard Brexit that is already taking a significant toll and the continued, systematic undermining of devolution, which is weakening our parliament’s powers to maintain food and environmental standards and protect the NHS from post-Brexit trade deals.

“Scotland’s recovery should be made by the people who live here and who care most about Scotland. That is why Scotland’s future should be Scotland’s choice.

“It should be for the next Scottish Parliament to decide the timing of the referendum. So that the recovery from the pandemic can be made in Scotland, the Scottish Government believes it should be held in the first half of the new Parliamentary term.

“If there is a majority in the Scottish Parliament after the forthcoming election for an independence referendum there can be no democratic justification whatsoever for any Westminster government to seek to block a post-pandemic referendum.”


Read the draft Scottish Independence Referendum Bill publication 

Last year, the Scottish Parliament passed the Referendums (Scotland) Act 2020 which sets out detailed conduct and campaign rules that can be used for any referendum.

The Referendums (Scotland) Act incorporated the Scottish franchise, meaning 16-year-olds and foreign nationals with voting rights in devolved elections will be eligible to vote.

Questions used in referendums will be tested by the Electoral Commission to establish they are clear, transparent and neutral.

The 2020/21 Programme for Government contained a promise to publish, before the end of this Parliament, a draft bill for an independence referendum.


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