Scottish Government
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Independence Referendum Bill reaches final stage

Historic legislation will “put Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands”.

The Bill to allow the people of Scotland to vote in a referendum on whether Scotland should be an independent country will today reach its final stage in the parliamentary process.

MSPs will vote on Stage 3 of the Scottish Independence Referendum Bill following a final Holyrood debate on the legislation this afternoon.

If passed, the Bill will confirm that the people of Scotland will vote in a referendum on September 18th next year on the question: “Should Scotland be an independent country?”

The Bill also confirms that, as previously outlined, the vote will be run to the highest international standards and will be overseen by the independent Electoral Commission.

The legislation follows the Edinburgh Agreement signed by both the Scottish and UK Governments which confirmed that it was for the Scottish Parliament to introduce the Bill, which sets out the details of how the referendum will be organised and regulated.

Speaking ahead of the Stage 3 debate, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:

“This is a historic moment in Scotland’s Home Rule journey.

“If passed by MSPs today, the Referendum Bill will put Scotland’s future in Scotland’s own hands for the first time in more than 300 years.

“It is a special moment for any country to be given the opportunity to decide its own future in the peaceful democratic way we are doing now in Scotland, and that is something worth pausing and reflecting on as we reach this stage of the process.

“This referendum will give the people of Scotland the power to decide what future we want for Scotland. It is the opportunity for all of us across Scotland to decide whether we want to make decisions on things like the economy and welfare here in Scotland – and whether we represent ourselves and speak with our own voice in the wider world – or have those decisions taken in Westminster.

“In passing this Bill, we will be meeting our commitment in the Edinburgh Agreement to design and deliver a referendum in Scotland, for Scotland.

“This is Scotland’s referendum. And today is a truly historic moment in the history of our nation and in the story of Scotland’s journey of self-determination.”

Notes to editors

The ‘Edinburgh Agreement’ and the subsequent Section 30 order (agreed in the Scottish and Westminster Parliaments) confirmed that Holyrood had the power to hold a single question referendum on Scottish independence.

The legislation confirms that the referendum will be:

  • preceded by a 16-week formal campaign period, during which limits will apply to the amount of money any registered participant may spend on campaigning, aimed at ensuring a level playing field for both sides of the debate
  • overseen by the independent Electoral Commission, responsible for regulating the campaign rules, informing the public about the referendum and reporting to the Scottish Parliament on the conduct and administration of the referendum
  • conducted under the direction of a Chief Counting Officer responsible for appointing local Counting Officers to run the poll in local areas.

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