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Scottish Government defers referendum on constitutional change

The Scottish National Party's minority government withdrew its planned Referendum Bill after opposition parties pledged to reject it in Parliament.

The Scottish National Party's minority government withdrew its planned Referendum Bill after opposition parties pledged to reject it in Parliament.

The proposed referendum on constitutional change was to include three choices for greater devolution of fiscal and legal powers, and included the option of full Scottish independence.

The minority SNP government, which holds only 47 out 129 seats in the Scottish Parliament, decided to ditch the Referendum Bill on September 6th as the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives announced they would block the bill.

Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond said plans for a referendum would be postponed in order to make the issue central to the SNP's campaign for the Scottish Election in May 2011.

"It will be a major, perhaps dominating, issue not because it is about not giving the people a say in their own future, but because we will be making the link to the economic crisis."

"If we have economic and financial powers then we can deal not with all, but with the majority, of this economic problem, which otherwise we have to deal with within a fixed budget", told the Scottish First Minister.

Scotland's Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said the Referendum Bill had fallen "foul of opposition game-playing" and accused the opposition parties of hypocrisy.

"We have Labour supporting a referendum in Wales for more powers for the Welsh Assembly. We have the Liberals and the Tory UK government supporting a referendum on an alternative vote system to vote in the next General Election, and yet all of these parties want to block the right of the Scottish people to choose their own future", told Mrs Sturgeon.

Although support for Scottish independence varies from poll to poll, public opinion polls show consistent support for a Scottish referendum on constitutional change.

The now withdrawn Referendum Bill was one of the key points of the SNP's legislative programme.

Mr Salmond expects that winning a second term would force the opposition parties to drop their opposition to the referendum.

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