Scottish Government publishes White Paper on constitutional change

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Scottish Government publishes White Paper on constitutional change

The Scottish National Party led administration wants to hold a referendum on independence of Scotland from the United Kingdom.

The Scottish National Party led administration wants to hold a referendum on independence of Scotland from the United Kingdom.

Launched on 30 November 2009, St Andrew's Day, the 176-page constitutional White Paper lays out four different options for Scotland's constitutional future: no change to the current situation; a few more devolved powers as recommended by the recent Calman Commission; a major transfer of powers through maximum devolution; and a fully sovereign, independent Scotland.

The Scottish Government said people should choose Scotland's constitutional future at the ballot box and intends to bring forward a referendum bill in 2010.

First Minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond, said: "Following a decade of devolution and the reconvening of the Scottish Parliament, there is now a clear and consistent demand for further constitutional progress for Scotland and extending the powers of the Parliament."

"The vast majority of people want to expand the responsibilities of the Parliament, so that we have more powers to do more for Scotland - the economic recovery, the right to speak up for Scotland in Europe, and the ability to remove Trident nuclear weapons from our soil."

"The debate in Scottish politics is no longer between change or no change - it's about the right kind of change we seek, and the right of the people to choose their future in a free and fair referendum."

"It's time for the people to have their say on Scotland's future", insisted the Scottish First Minister.

The Scottish National Party (SNP) led administration, which says that Scotland must be independent to meet its full economic potential, plans to publish a referendum bill in 2010.

Opposition parties expected to block referendum

Analysts expect the Government's proposed referendum bill to get blocked at the first opportunity in the Scottish Parliament, as the SNP is in a minority administration holding only 47 of the 129 seats in the chamber.

The referendum bill would only be supported by the SNP (47 MSPs), the Scottish Greens (2 MSPs) and independent MSP Margo MacDonald, but would be blocked by pro-UK parties Labour (46 MSPs), Conservatives (16 MSPs) and Liberal Democrats (16 MSPs).

Opposition parties ruled out supporting a referendum saying that 65% of Scots voted for pro-UK parties in the last election and the Scottish Government should focus on more immediate concerns, such as the recession.

Scottish Labour Party leader Iain Gray said: "What people really care about are jobs and the economy. It is the top priority, not Alex Salmond’s vanity project... It could cost anything up to £12 million, that's public resources which could be put to far better use protecting and creating jobs here in Scotland and I think that's what Scots want us to be doing."

Scottish Tory leader Annabel Goldie said: "This referendum Bill is a complete waste of public resources on something that the people of Scotland clearly don’t want... Alex Salmond should ditch this referendum bill, which the SNP say will cost £9 million, and get on with the job he was elected to do."

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Tavish Scott said: "The SNP are a minority party with a majority ego trying to impose independence on Scotland when it is neither what Scotland wants nor needs... I think we should concentrate on the issues we are responsible for, of course make the arguments for strengthening our Parliament and making it more accountable to our people. That's where we should be not on this obsession with independence."

The First Minister Alex Salmond insisted that the Scottish people had put in power in 2007 a party that wanted a referendum on independence, and it was therefore his duty to provide one.

"The central proposition that the people of Scotland should not be allowed their say in their country’s future is an impossible one to defend", replied Mr Salmond.

Referring to the current economic crisis, the First Minister insisted that Scotland should be independent to meet its full economic potential.

Polls suggest that around 30% of Scots support independence from the United Kingdom.

Scotland to get more devolved powers following Calman Commission recommendations

The Scottish Government's White Paper proposals came five months after the publication in June 2009 of the report by the Comission on Scottish Devolution.

Known as "The Calman Commission", the Comission on Scottish Devolution was established in 2007 by the Scottish Parliament "to review the provisions of the Scotland Act 1998 in the light of experience and to recommend any changes to the present constitutional arrangements."

The Commission's recommendations, which called for more powers relating to tax and capital borrowing to be devolved to Holyrood, were supported by the UK government and are to become law before the 2015 Scottish elections.

The Commission's review of devolved powers was welcomed by pro-UK parties Labour, Tories and Lib-Dems, but fell short of satisfying pro-independence parties SNP and Scottish Greens. While the UK secretary of state for Scotland Jim Murphy said "Scots know that as part of the United Kingdom we have the best of both worlds", the SNP leader Alex Salmond told that "only independence gives Scotland the freedom to achieve its full potential as an equal member of the international community."

Do you want to know more?

» Scottish Government White Paper for Constitutional Reform in Scotland

» Commission on Scottish Devolution (Calman Commission)


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