Plans to give the people of Scotland their say on the nation's future - including enhanced devolution and extending the powers of the Parliament to enable independence to be achieved - were unveiled today with the publication of a draft Referendum Bill.
First Minister Alex Salmond published the draft Bill which would give people the opportunity to have their say on two questions:
- first, whether the Scottish Parliament should have more devolved responsibility
- second, whether there should be an additional extension of power to enable Scotland to become an independent country
A consultation paper, published with the draft Bill, seeks views on the best option for the question on further devolution: full devolution including fiscal autonomy (known as 'Devo Max') or the more limited proposals made by the Commission on Scottish Devolution (the 'Calman Commission').
The FM said:
"Through our ground-breaking National Conversation, involving the voluntary sector, trades unions, business and local communities - and the White Paper, 'Your Scotland, Your Voice' published on St Andrew's Day last year - we have provided a comprehensive platform for all the options for Scotland's constitutional future.
"The Scottish Government believe in the sovereignty of the people. And as set out in the manifesto on which we were elected, we are committed to giving people the opportunity to express their views in a referendum.
"The importance of referendums on constitutional matters across the UK is clear, with the National Assembly for Wales having voted unanimously for a referendum to extend its powers, and Westminster backing a referendum on reforming the electoral system. There is no reason why Scotland should be treated differently, or less democratically.
"More than 10 years on from the establishment of the Scottish Parliament, the debate in Scotland is no longer about whether or not the Parliament should take on new responsibilities - it is about the form of change, and that issue underpins the consultation. The people want our Parliament to be able to do more, so the debate is now about how much more. And it is time the people had their say.
"I believe that the future prosperity and development of our country is best served by Scotland becoming independent, and the Scottish Government would campaign for a 'Yes-Yes' vote in the referendum - 'yes' to more responsibilities for the Parliament, and 'yes' to additional powers to enable independence to be achieved.
"'Yes-Yes' was the winning campaign in 1997 - and will be a winning campaign for Scotland again.
"The case for an independent Scotland is stronger and more urgent following the economic crisis. It is exactly the powers and flexibility offered by independence that Scotland needs in order to support recovery now, and deal effectively with the challenges and opportunities of the future. But I recognise that there are also those who argue that the responsibilities of the Scottish Parliament should be extended in more limited ways.
"The draft Bill reflects that and provides the framework for a referendum shaped by the people of Scotland. I look forward to the consultation, the debate on the Bill - and to campaigning for a 'Yes-Yes' vote in the referendum itself."