More powers for Holyrood pledge as constitution consultation launched

Posted on 17/06/2014 by

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A fresh start for Scotland, or increased powers within the UK? The SNP launched a consultation on a written constitution yesterday while the three main pro-union parties promised further devolution …

Everyone in Scotland will be asked to have their say on a draft Bill which will set out how an independent Scotland will be governed, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said yesterday.

The draft Scottish Independence Bill is now open for public consultation and includes details on how an independent Scotland could prepare a permanent written constitution in a fully participative process led by the people.

The Bill also sets out immediate arrangements for independence – such as the role of government, human rights and the rule of law – and would form the interim written constitution.

The fundamental principle underpinning the Bill is that the people are sovereign – rather than Parliament, as is the case in the UK. The United Kingdom is the only country in the European Union, and the only country in the Commonwealth, which does not currently have a written constitution or Constitution Act.

The interim constitution proposes an obligation to advance towards nuclear disarmament, the strengthening of human rights protection, the safeguarding of the wellbeing of children and protection for the particular needs of local government and island communities.

In a speech at University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Constitutional Law, Ms Sturgeon said: “The great national debate we are engaged in is an intensely practical debate about how independence can improve the lives of people in Scotland.

“The key constitutional and practical point here is that with independence the Scottish Parliament can deliver an economic policy tailored to our needs and designed to take advantage of our great wealth. We will be able to retain the proceeds of growth in our economy in the form of increased tax revenues.

“With independence, Scotland will be a national economy with all the tools of other independent states. Independence as our constitutional future puts the practical responsibility into our own hands.

“A written constitution can be the foundation on which we can build that better Scotland.

“A written constitution is an important part of a nation’s identity – it defines who we are and sets out the values that we hold dear. It would be our ‘Scottish Declaration of Independence’, founded on the principle that in Scotland, the people are sovereign, not the Government or the Parliament.

“Our draft Scottish Independence Bill, and its accompanying consultation paper, set out our proposals for the steps that will follow a vote for independence to provide Scotland with a robust platform to make the transition. The Bill also sets out the framework for the Constitutional Convention that will follow independence and will develop Scotland’s permanent written constitution.

“This Scottish Government has set out some of the proposals that it would make to that Convention for the permanent constitution. But the process of creating the constitution – the engagement by the people in it – will be as important in many ways as its contents. As well as political parties and civic society, the process should ensure that the sovereign people of Scotland are centrally involved in designing and determining a written constitution as the blueprint for our country’s future.

“This principle – of the sovereignty of the people – is also key to the argument for independence. The people who have the biggest stake in a successful Scotland are those who live and work here. There are better outcomes for Scotland when decisions about Scotland are made in Scotland by the people of Scotland. Sovereignty means the people of Scotland always getting the government we vote for to govern our country the way we want.

“Currently we are without a written constitution, and the UK is the only country within the European Union or the Commonwealth that does not have a written constitution or a Constitution Act. But on September 18th the people of Scotland will be sovereign as they make the decision on Scotland’s future. Only with independence can we keep that power over our own destiny.

“This is a very exciting time and I would encourage everyone to have their say on the Bill. It is an exciting and unique opportunity to shape our nation, celebrate and protect our values and commit ourselves to building a better country.”

While Nicola Sturgeon was launching the Bill, the three main opposition parties – all pro-Union – produced a joint statement promising to deliver further devolution to Scotland by increasing Holyrood’s powers.

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The Better Together statement – made by Scottish party leaders Ruth Davidson (Conservative), Johann Lamont (Labour) and Lib-Dem Willie Rennie (pictured above) – guarantees further control over fiscal matters and social security.

The leaders said: “We support a strong Scottish Parliament in a strong United Kingdom and we support the further strengthening of the parliament’s powers. The three parties delivered more powers for Holyrood through the Calman Commission which resulted in the Scotland Act 2012.

“We now pledge to further strengthen the powers of the Scottish Parliament, in particular in the areas of fiscal responsibility and social security. We believe that Scotland should have a stronger Scottish Parliament while retaining full representation for Scotland at Westminster.”

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