In 1997, the Scottish electorate voted by an overwhelming majority to establish the Scottish Parliament. Devolution has brought a wide range of economic, social and political benefits to Scotland. It has enabled new and innovative approaches to be taken to tackle long‑standing issues including on public health, supporting thriving communities, and conserving the natural environment for future generations.
That journey is not over. There remain deep‑rooted challenges in our society and economy, as well as new emerging issues resulting from the Covid‑19 pandemic and EU exit.
However, the ability of the Scottish Parliament to tackle those challenges and deliver a fairer Scotland is coming under increasing threat. Successive UK Governments, in particular since the EU referendum, have not only undermined the devolution settlement but are now actively re‑writing it without the consent of the people of Scotland.
Devolution, by its very nature, has always been dependent on the restraint and goodwill of the UK Government of the day, but EU exit has triggered an assault on devolution not previously seen. In March 2021 the Scottish Government set out the various ways in which the UK Government is undermining devolution in a detailed paper: After Brexit: the UK Internal Market Act and devolution.
The Scottish Government will do all we can to keep Scotland safe, and protect both devolution and our democratic rights. We were told that this is an equal partnership. But there is no evidence that Westminster wants an equal partnership – it wants to be in control.
Faced with a UK Government determined to centralise power in Westminster there is little the Scottish Parliament can do to stop them. This is just one reason why people in Scotland should have the right to decide their own future.
When this Government was recently returned for an historic fourth term, the people of Scotland gave a clear mandate for them to have a choice over their future once the COVID‑19 crisis has passed.
The Scottish Government will work to ensure that a legitimate and constitutional referendum can be held within this Parliament, and if the Covid crisis is over, within the first half of this Parliament.
It must be up to the people of Scotland – not a Westminster government they didn't vote for – to decide how Scotland is governed. Before this referendum the people of Scotland will have the information they need to make an informed choice about their future and, therefore, the Scottish Government will start work on a detailed prospectus for an independent Scotland.
The pandemic has shone a light on the continued inequalities in our society, and the bold and transformational change required to secure a brighter future. The Scottish Government will use the full powers available to secure that future – but we have also seen the limitations of the current settlement. If the people of Scotland choose independence, the full range of powers of an independent country would allow Scotland to put in place a transformational recovery from the pandemic, one which will lead to a fairer and more sustainable and prosperous nation.
And Scotland will be able to work with our friends in the rest of the UK, and Europe, in a genuine partnership of equals.