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Parliamentary debates and questions

S5W-03916: ()

Date lodged: 19 October 2016

To ask the Scottish Government when it will publish a draft Referendum Bill for consultation, as set out in the Programme for Government.

Answered by: Derek Mackay 20 October 2016

The current Scottish Government was elected with a clear mandate that the Scottish Parliament should have the right to hold an independence referendum if there was clear and sustained evidence that independence had become the preferred option of a majority of the Scottish people – or if there was a significant and material change in the circumstances that prevailed in 2014, such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will.

Given Scotland’s strong and unequivocal vote to remain in the EU, Scotland is now faced with one of the specific scenarios in which this government pledged that the Scottish Parliament should have the right to hold an independence referendum.

In A Plan For Scotland: The Scottish Government's Programme For Scotland 2016-17, presented to Parliament in September, we said that we would publish for consultation a draft Referendum Bill so that it will be ready for introduction should we conclude that seeking the view of the Scottish people on independence is the best or only way to protect Scotland’s interests in the wake of the EU referendum.

In line with that announcement, we have today published a consultation paper and a draft Referendum Bill. The consultation paper invites views on the proposals for how the referendum will be run. These proposals are based on the Scottish Independence Referendum Act 2013, which was used very successfully for the 2014 referendum. A draft bill is provided as an appendix to the consultation paper.

The Scottish Government remains willing to work with the UK Government to negotiate a future relationship with Europe that is in line with the views of the overwhelming majority of the Scottish people and which works for the United Kingdom as a whole. However, if it becomes clear that it is only through independence that Scotland’s interests can be protected, then the people of Scotland must have the ability to reconsider that question, and to do so before the UK leaves the EU.

We are consulting now so that, should it become clear this is the only or best way to protect Scotland’s vital national interests, we can introduce the Bill for consideration by the Scottish Parliament.

A copy of the consultation paper and draft Bill are available from the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (Bib Number 58283) or can be found at https://consult.scotland.gov.uk/elections-and-constitutional-development-division/draft-referendum-bill/

The deadline for responses to the consultation is 11 January 2017 and we would welcome any comments or suggestions which members may have on the proposed Bill.