Scottish Independence - In brief: Scotland's future

The Scottish government has produced a 16-page document outlining a possible transition to independence in the event of a "Yes" vote in the autumn 2014 referendum. Here is a summary:

CONSTITUTION

Scotland, with a long and distinct constitutional tradition based on the sovereignty of its people, should have a written constitution which reflects its citizens' values. The document should be prepared after independence in a spirit of unity by a constitutional convention, overseen by parliament. The process should engage all Scotland's people along with politicians, civic society, business and trades unions in the process of nation-building.

The Scottish government thinks the constitution should "strengthen individual rights in areas such as homelessness and education"; outlaw nuclear weapons in Scotland; and prevent the government from "engaging in illegal wars".

It should also set out clearly "how institutions of state interact with each other and serve the people" and should assert that everyone in Scotland is entitled to "equality of opportunity and to live free of discrimination and prejudice" and that everyone "should be entitled to public services" and to a standard of living that, at the least, secures dignity and self-respect and allows them to realise their full potential.

The constitution's authors should provide a collective expression of shared positive values and should consider how to further embed equality and human rights as well as considering rights in relation to issues such as welfare, pensions, health care, education, climate change and the environment.

CONSTITUTIONAL PLATFORM

Scotland already has many of the trappings of a state, not least a parliament, government and law courts. But it would need to agree with the UK government the transfer of authority for everything else. This would include setting up a Scottish Treasury and Scottish Supreme Court as well as arrangements to retain the monarchy.

At the same time there would need to be pre-independence negotiations with international bodies. These would include the European Union and would secure what the Scottish government calls the "transfer" of membership from the UK to Scotland.

The Scottish and UK governments would have to agree to the division of assets and liabilities (including oil/tax revenues/military bases/overseas assets); transfer to Holyrood of political institutions controlled at Westminster; ongoing co-operative arrangements; and a timetable for the removal of Trident nuclear weapons from the Clyde.

Some matters may continue to be discussed after independence.

The SNP say this would all be a stable, orderly and collaborative process and the main powers would be in place in time for "independence day" in March 2016 which would then be followed in May 2016 by the first independent Scottish elections.

They argue that the reunification of Germany in 1990 and independence for the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993 show that countries can make significant constitutional changes in months rather than years.

Of the 30 new states which have become UN members following referendums in the post-war period, the average length of time between referendum and independence day was approximately 15 months.

Preparations for independence should "move ahead swiftly" following a "Yes" vote. Both Scottish and UK governments should be prepared for the outcome and "have a duty" to hold "preparatory discussions" about the process.

INDEPENDENCE

Independence will "complete the powers of the Scottish Parliament", making it fully responsible for the economy, welfare and international relations and equipping it to "build a thriving, self-confident, democratic independent European country". It will allow the people of Scotland to elect a government and a parliament that reflects their views and values.

Independence is not an end in itself but a means of "creating a better Scotland", with a government "better able to sustain a stable economy...create wealth to support strong public services; manage the country's vast resources more responsibly" and ensure that all people in Scotland have the "chance to reach their full potential."

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