Scotland politics

Scots urged to give indyref2 bill views

Yes2 sticker Image copyright AFP

Members of the public have been urged to give their views on the Scottish government's draft independence bill as the consultation enters its final week.

The draft bill proposes rules that would govern any future referendum, largely mirroring those put in place for the vote in 2014.

A public consultation on the proposals will close on 11 January.

Constitution Secretary Derek Mackay said the option of Scottish independence "must stay on the table".

It would be up to Westminster to grant the power to hold another vote - and pro-Union opposition parties at Holyrood have said any attempt to hold a second referendum would be "reckless" and risked causing further uncertainty for business.

But First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has insisted voters north of the border should be given the chance to consider the issue afresh after the EU referendum, which saw the UK as a whole vote for Brexit, while a majority in Scotland wanted to remain.

Ms Sturgeon has published proposals aimed at protecting Scottish interests in Europe, which include options to allow Scotland to remain in the single market even if the rest of the UK leaves and the transfer of significant powers to Holyrood.

But she has also stressed the Scottish Parliament must be able to consider the option of an independence referendum "if it becomes clear that it is the best or only way of safeguarding Scotland's interests".

Image copyright PA
Image caption The consultation on the Draft Referendum Bill closes on 11 January

Mr Mackay argued that the EU referendum result represented a "material constitutional change" that meant that the option of independence "must stay on the table".

He added: "Any decision on holding a referendum is for the Scottish Parliament. Our intention is that the bill is ready for introduction should the Scottish government decide that a referendum on independence is the best or only way to protect Scotland's interests.

"It is important that any future referendum on independence would meet the gold standard in terms of fairness, transparency and propriety set by the one in 2014 - and I'd encourage anyone with an interest to give us their views before the consultation closes next week."

It follows a BMG poll for the Herald newspaper which suggested that, when those who are unsure are excluded, 61.5% are against holding a fresh vote in 2017, compared to 38.5% who support it.

Excluding "don't knows", the poll put support for an independent Scotland at 45.5%, almost identical to the result in 2014.

'No support'

It was the latest in a series of polls to suggest that the Brexit vote has not led to a major increase in support for independence.

Scottish Conservative constitution spokesman Adam Tomkins MSP said any attempt at a re-run of the 2014 referendum was "desperate and risks causing even further uncertainty across the country for workers and businesses".

He added: "Repeated polls have now shown a majority do not want a second vote on this. It's time Nicola Sturgeon respected that."

Scottish Labour's Europe spokesman Lewis Macdonald MSP said: "There should not be a second independence referendum and there will be absolutely no support from Labour for the SNP's reckless plan.

"Scottish Labour is very clear that we want the UK to retain access to the EU single market to protect jobs and the rights of workers in Scotland. But the most important single market to Scotland is the UK."

Ross Greer of the Scottish Green Party said rights for Scots could only be secured if Scotland was an "independent nation with the European Union".

The MSP explained: "Scotland did not vote to leave the European Union and we should not be forced to choose the least worst of the options available.

"The challenge for those of us in the Yes movement is to be ready with the answers on currency, the economy, pensions and any other area where the No campaign has sown doubt or where the Scottish government's 2014 proposals were not strong enough."

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: "With all the problems the SNP government faces it stills finds the time to drone on about independence.

"It also shows that the SNP are only using the European Union as a device to advance their independence obsession."