Scotland politics

Scottish independence: Voters to have say on 'Yes' constitution plan

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Media captionNicola Sturgeon sets out the "steps that will follow" a "Yes" vote in the referendum to establish Scotland as an independent state

The first draft constitution of an independent Scotland has been set out by the Scottish government, ahead of the 18 September referendum.

It includes plans to remove Trident nuclear weapons from Scotland and keep the Queen as head of state.

In the event of a "Yes" vote, there would be a "temporary" constitution, to be later replaced by a permanent one.

The pro-Union Better Together campaign said Scots ministers had still not outlined independence start-up costs.

Scotland's deputy first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, unveiled the temporary constitution in the form of draft legislation, which - if passed by parliament- would take effect from 24 March 2016.

This is the day ministers say Scotland would become independent after a "Yes" vote.

A "constitutional convention" would then be established to prepare a permanent constitution for an independent Scotland.

The interim constitution states:

  • Scotland's people are sovereign, rather than parliament or government
  • Scotland functions as an independent parliamentary democracy with a government and the Queen as head of state.
  • The Scottish government must pursue negotiations to secure the safe and expeditious removal of Trident nuclear weapons, based on the Clyde
  • The national flag of Scotland continues to be the Saltire
  • The Scottish Parliament can choose a national anthem for Scotland
  • The rule of law applies from day one of independence
  • Rules for Scottish citizenship

The temporary constitution also sets out measures which aim to strengthen human rights protection and safeguard children.

Background and analysis

Image copyright US National Archives

Ms Sturgeon said the UK was the only EU or Commonwealth country without a written constitution or a Constitution Act.

In a speech at Edinburgh University, she said: "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."

Elsewhere on the referendum campaign trail . . .

Image copyright PA
Image caption Ruth Davidson, Johann Lamont and Willie Rennie joined forces in Edinburgh
  1. Scotland's main pro-Union parties made a joint pledge on more powers for the Scottish Parliament in the event of a referendum "No" vote.
  2. First Minister Alex Salmond travelled to Orkney to offer more powers to Scotland's island communities in the event of a referendum "Yes" vote.
  3. The Scottish government said it would borrow billions of pounds in the first few years of independence to kick start the economy and end austerity.
  4. The Pensions Policy Institute think tank said an independent Scotland with the same state pension policy as the rest of the UK may find it difficult to afford pensions.
  5. The moderator of the Church of Scotland, Right Reverend John Chalmers, said the independence debate should not allow itself to be "drowned out" by online abuse.
  6. And police are examining an allegation of "online criminality" against Harry Potter author JK Rowling after she donated £1m to the pro-Union parties.

The deputy first minister said the process of creating the constitution would in many ways be as important as its contents.

She explained: "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."

'Isn't credible'

Labour MSP Jackie Baillie, speaking for the pro-Union Better Together campaign, said: "Nicola Sturgeon has recycled the same speech several times now.

"The people of Scotland would be more interested if the nationalists had set out what the start-up costs of independence would be, what would replace the pound, how our pensions would be paid or what would happen to the money available for our schools and hospitals if we leave the UK.

"Keeping these details from Scots simply isn't credible.

"As part of the UK we can have the best of both worlds for Scotland."

ANALYSIS - BBC's Brian Taylor on SNP's constitution plan

"As she opened her remarks in the magnificent Playfair Library of Edinburgh University, Nicola Sturgeon disclosed that she had briefly paused in advance to gather her thoughts and gain inspiration.

"Said inspiration had come from viewing in an ante-room the writing desk used by Sir Walter Scott, one of the finest authors and poets in the known universe. (Actually, that last bit is mine but I am sure she meant to say it. She certainly said she had viewed the desk with pride.)

"Some observing sceptics, however, reckoned she had been studying another brilliant writer, Lewis Carroll.

"She was setting out a constitution for an independent Scotland.

"Given that the referendum is still months away, was that not "sentence first, verdict afterwards". Was it not a little premature?

Not so. Ms Sturgeon said it was vital to have in place the groundwork for a new state. This was not, she said, some dry constitutional point - while swiftly acknowledging that her academic and legal audience would probably prefer exactly that. They murmured appreciatively."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Who was Nicola Sturgeon getting her inspiration from? Scots poet and author Sir Walter Scott.....
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption .... or Lewis Carroll, the creator of Alice in Alice in Wonderland

Read more on Brian Taylor's blog....

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