Approval for Referendums Bill

20 Dec 2019 12:25 PM

Scotland ‘closer to deciding its own future’

Constitutional Relations Secretary Michael Russell has described the passing of the Referendums (Scotland) Bill yesterday as an important step forward in allowing Scotland to choose its own future.

The rules approved by MSPs will ensure any future referendum covered by the Bill meet the highest international standards. 

Mr Russell yesterday said:

“Today we are closer to giving the Scottish people a choice over the path our country should take. With this legislative framework in place, it only requires a short Bill for an independence referendum to be held once a transfer of power, which puts holding a referendum beyond challenge, is devolved to the Scottish Government. 

"These robust regulations will allow debate to focus on the issues at stake in referendums, not procedure, and ensure that the results can be accepted by all parties.

“Legal changes are required to keep pace with the way campaigns are now conducted. To protect the space for rational, respectful debate, it must be clear who is behind online campaign activity, while those who break rules should be properly sanctioned. This Bill addresses both these issues."

The Referendums (Scotland) Bill introduces tighter controls on social media campaigning and bigger fines for those who break the rules. It incorporates the Scottish franchise, meaning 16-year-olds and EU citizens will be eligible to vote.

Questions used in referendums will be tested by the Electoral Commission to establish they are clear, transparent and neutral. They will be valid for one parliamentary term, with a provision to extend the time limit with the Scottish Parliament’s approval. In addition, Parliament can ask the commission to review a question at any time.

Background

The Referendums (Scotland) Bill provides a legislative framework for the holding of all future referendums on devolved issues in Scotland.

It includes a requirement that online campaign material contains an imprint showing the name and address of the person responsible.

The maximum civil penalty the Electoral Commission can impose on rule breakers is increased from £10,000 to £500,000.

The Presiding Officer will submit the Bill to the Queen for Royal Assent. Once this is received, the Bill becomes an Act of the Scottish Parliament and is part of the law of Scotland.