The Referendum on Scotland’s future in the UK
Since 1999 the Scottish Parliament has shown how Scotland can have a strong voice within the rest of the UK. Devolution was one of the first issues that the Labour Government turned to when it came to power in 1997 after a long period of Conservative rule and remains one of that Government’s major achievements.
I believe in a strong Scotland within the UK. In my view that reflects the feelings of most Scots as well as the realities of the Scottish economy which is so closely intertwined with that of the rest of the UK.
The UK and Scottish Governments both held public consultations on the referendum to which I contributed. You can find my submission to the UK Government consultation here and the Scottish Government consultation here.
The two Governments have now reached agreement on the basic framework within which the referendum will be held. You can find the text of the agreement here.
The Scottish Government recently published a Bill to provide for the referendum to be held. This will now be debated in the Scottish Parliament. You can find the text here.
I have been very actively taking part in the debate, both here in Scotland and at Westminster. In what follows you can find links to my speeches and also my views on the current state of the debate.
You can find details of the Better Together campaign for Scotland to remain within the UK at http://www.bettertogether.net
You can download the guide to voting in the referendum produced by the independent Electoral Commission whch is overseeing the conduct of the referendum here.
The current state of the debate
The House of Commons Scottish Affairs Select Committee produced a report on the referendum debate which is a useful introduction to the debate. It set out six areas where it believed that more clarity was still needed:
the referendum itself - since the report was published there is much more clarity on this and the Bill to provide for the referendum has now been published and will be debated in due course in the Scottish Parliament.
defence – should Scotland have separate armed forces?
finance – would an independent Scotland still use sterling and how would both North Sea Oil revenues and the National Debt be divided up between Scotland the rest of the UK
shared institutions – what would be the future of the BBC, Royal Mail and the NHS in an independent Scotland? Would Scottish citizens have free access to the NHS in the remaining parts of the UK and vice versa?
European Union – would Scotland automatically become a member of the EU or would it have to apply and if so, what would the likely conditions be? Would there be a referendum on Scotland’s membership of the EU?
You can find full details of the report here. The Committee has also produced other reports relevant to the referendum whichn you can find here.
Apart from the way in which the referendum will be held, most of these issues still remain to be clarified.
The Scottish Government has begun to set out its idea of what independence would mean which would involve some elements of continuity with the current position. However, this has aroused further debate over how far this is compatible with being an independent state.
You can find more on what is meant by independence here.
For information on the way that the referendum will be held click here.
For more on the current position of Scotland within the UK, including the latest changes extending the powers of the Scottish Parliament and the role of Scottish MPs at Westminster click here.