Scottish independence: Referendum question set out

The Scottish government has launched a consultation on the SNP's forthcoming referendum on Scottish independence, asking for public views.

Here is a look at the key points of the document:

  • People living in Scotland are the best people to make decisions about Scotland's future.
  • The referendum will be held in autumn 2014, in the same way as any Scottish election, to the same standards and with the same guarantee of fairness.
  • Outcome of the vote must be "beyond challenge or doubt".
  • Consultation seeks views on what the ballot paper should say, what campaign spending limits should be and how the referendum should be managed and regulated.

How to take part

Deadline - Responses by Friday, 11 May, 2012

Electronic responses can be accessed by filling in a form on the government's consultation webpage

Email - You can also send responses to referendum@scotland.gsi.gov.uk

Address - Written submissions should be sent to - Referendum Consultation, Elections and Constitutional Development Division, Area 3D (south), Victoria Quay, Edinburgh, EH6 6QQ

  • In the event of a "yes" vote, the Scottish government, "would negotiate with the UK and move to secure the transfer of sovereignty and powers to the people of Scotland".
  • Much of what Scotland will be like the day after independence will be similar to the day before - people will go to work, pensions and benefits will be collected, children will go out to play "and life will be as normal".
  • Independence means decisions about what happens in Scotland and for Scotland are "taken by the people who care most about Scotland".
  • Consultation states: "Scotland is not oppressed and we have no need to be liberated", but says Scotland does not have the powers currently to reach its potential.
  • Under independence, Scotland would "take its place as a responsible member of the international community while continuing as a friend and good neighbour to the other nations of these islands".
  • Under independence, Scotland would have "the rights and responsibilities of a normal, sovereign state and continue its membership in the European Union", while forging a "new partnership" with the rest of the former United Kingdom.
  • The Queen would remain as head of state under independence, and the Scottish Parliament would gain full responsibility for governing Scotland.
  • The referendum "must be trusted and clear", meeting "the highest standards of fairness, transparency and propriety and deliver a decisive result".
  • In developing the referendum, the Scottish government will "listen to society as a whole".
  • A Referendum Bill would be debated by parliament during 2013.
  • The Scottish government's preferred question on the ballot paper is: "Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?"
  • The Scottish Government's preference is for a short, direct question about independence.
  • The Scottish government is ready to work with UK ministers to "remove their doubts" about the legal competence of the Scottish Parliament in holding a binding referendum.
  • It is for the Scottish government to propose to the Scottish Parliament the timing and terms of the referendum and the rules under which it is to be conducted.
  • Following passage of the Referendum Bill, expected in November 2013, the Scottish government will publish a white paper, setting out full details of independence case.
  • The Scottish government recognises "considerable support across Scotland" for increased Holyrood powers short of independence and will "listen carefully" to views on the issue.
  • Referendum to be administered by the Electoral Management Board and managed by local returning officers and a chief counting officer.
  • Regulation and monitoring of the referendum campaign will be undertaken by the Electoral Commission.
  • Scottish government proposes to give 16 and 17-year-olds the right to vote.
  • Referendum to cost about £10m ("broadly" in line with cost per voter in the Welsh Assembly and AV referendums) with most spending going on running the poll and count.
  • Campaign spending limit in 16-week "regulated period" before the referendum set at £750,000 for a "designated organisation", or principal campaigner, £250,000 for a political party in the Scottish Parliament, £50,000 for other "permitted" participants (recognised by the Electoral Commission) and £5,000 for individuals and "non-permitted participants". No public funding available for campaigning.
  • A "yes" vote would start negotiations with the UK government, with a "transitional period" to allow preparations, followed by a final piece of legislation to enact independence.
  • The referendum would not be subject to any minimum turnout requirement and would be conducted on a "simple majority" basis.
  • The referendum timetable of autumn 2014 avoids clashes with various events, starting with the council elections on May 2012 and ending with the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in July 2014, and allows for due process in terms of considering consultation responses and the Referendum Bill.
  • Counting of votes to take place by hand (rather than electronically).
  • Consultation asking for views on holding the referendum on a Saturday and other ways to make voting easier.
  • Eligibility to vote based on residency: British citizens resident in Scotland; Commonwealth citizens resident in Scotland; citizens of the Republic of Ireland and other EU countries resident in Scotland; members of the House of Lords resident in Scotland and service/Crown personnel serving in the UK or overseas in the Armed Forces or with Her Majesty's Government who are registered to vote in Scotland.

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