Scottish Government
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DFM updates Parliament on 'Edinburgh Agreement'

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon yesterday updated the Scottish Parliament on the ‘Edinburgh Agreement’ signed last week between the Scottish and UK Governments.

The governments are agreed that the referendum should:

  • have a clear legal base;
  • be legislated for by this Parliament;
  • be conducted so as to command the confidence of parliaments, governments and people;
  • deliver a fair test and a decisive expression of the views of the Scottish people, and a result that everyone will respect

A Section 30 Order will allow a single-question referendum on Scottish independence to be held before the end of 2014.  Once the order is agreed the Scottish Government will bring forward legislation setting out the referendum date, franchise, wording of the question, rules on campaign financing and other rules for the conduct of the referendum.

The Deputy First Minister also said that, in light of the Edinburgh Agreement signed last week, the Scottish Government has now commissioned specific legal advice from Scottish Law Officers on the position of Scotland within the European Union if independence is achieved.

Speaking in parliament Ms Sturgeon said:

“The Edinburgh Agreement is a watershed moment in Scotland's Home Rule journey.  It paves the way for the most important decision our country will make in over 300 years and – crucially – ensures that Scotland’s referendum is designed and delivered by this Parliament.

“As set out in the Edinburgh Agreement, the Electoral Commission will play an important role in formulating the question for the referendum.  The Government will refer our proposed referendum question to the Electoral Commission for review of its intelligibility.  The Commission will take views from others on the proposed wording and then report on the question.  The final decision on the question will be for this Parliament, taking account of the views of the Commission. 

“I will be meeting the Commission later this week to discuss the next steps in their involvement, and to ensure that the process of reviewing the question takes place in good time.

“I will also be confirming to the Electoral Commission that we will be seeking its advice on setting spending limits that ensure a fair contest and a level playing field.”

Ms Sturgeon continued:

“In light of the Edinburgh Agreement, by which both governments have agreed the process for Scotland to achieve independence, I can confirm that the government has now commissioned specific legal advice from our Law Officers on the position of Scotland within the European Union if independence is achieved through this process.

“The Scottish Government has previously cited opinions from a number of eminent legal authorities, past and present, in support of its view that an independent Scotland will continue in membership of the European Union - but has not sought specific legal advice. However, as the Edinburgh  Agreement provides the exact context of the process of obtaining independence, we now have the basis on which specific legal advice can be sought.

“The views of these other eminent authorities will continue to be highly relevant, but the Government’s position in the independence White Paper will be based on and consistent with the advice that we receive.

“Given that my statement today answers the ruling of the Information Commissioner on the existence of legal advice, there is now no need for the government to pursue an appeal against this ruling in this specific case and I have asked our lawyers to advise the Court accordingly and to ask that the appeal be dismissed.

“I should also make clear that, in confirming that the government has now asked for Law Officers' advice, I have both sought and received the prior agreement of the Lord Advocate.”

Ms Sturgeon concluded:

“I now look forward to the referendum campaign, the most important democratic event in Scotland’s long history as a nation.  The Government will set out the positive case for an independent Scotland. 

“We have an ambitious vision for Scotland as a prosperous and successful European country reflecting Scottish values of fairness and opportunity, promoting equality and social cohesion. 

“We believe that independence is right for Scotland because it is the only way to deliver this vision, to deliver a better and fairer society for the people of Scotland.”

Details of the Edinburgh Agreement can be found here.

The full independent analysis of the referendum consultation can be found here.

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