Plans envisage Scottish independence from March 2016
Tuesday, 05 February 2013

The Scottish government has drawn up a detailed paper outlining the possible transition to independence, BBC Scotland can reveal.


Under the plans, based on a "yes" vote in a 2014 referendum, independence day for Scotland would be in March 2016.

The first elections to an independent parliament would follow in May.

The paper challenges UK ministers to open talks on the transition now, but the prime minister has said he will not pre-negotiate independence.

The plans - 'Scotland's Future: from the referendum to independence and a written constitution' - have been produced by the Scottish government, with a foreword provided by Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

They set out the transition from a "yes" vote in the autumn 2014 referendum to independence day in March 2016.

It is envisaged that Scottish ministers would join with other parties and civic Scotland in negotiating the terms of independence with the UK government.

That would result in a" legal constitutional platform" comprising the division of assets and liabilities, new global connections, including with the EU, and Scotland's retention of the monarchy.

The paper says Scotland should have a written constitution "which reflects the values of the people of Scotland".

It says the preparation of that constitution should commence after independence "under the auspices of the independent Scottish Parliament".

It goes on: "When the process of determining the constitution gets under way, the Scottish government will be just one of many voices."

SNP leaders want the legislation which would create an independent Scotland enacted at Holyrood, by agreement with the UK.

Under the plans, Westminster's legislative role would be to end the Treaty of Union.

The paper says: "The Scottish government's intention is that after a 'yes' vote in 2014, arrangements will be made, in the spirit of the Edinburgh Agreement, for the transfer of sovereignty to the people of Scotland in time for the 2016 Scottish Parliamentary elections and for a constitutional platform to be put in place that will provide the basis on which our independent parliament and government will operate."

The Scottish government also uses the paper to repeat calls for the government at Westminster to engage in "preparatory discussions" about the transition to independence in the event of a "yes" vote.

The paper says: "The Electoral Commission has recommended that the Scottish and UK governments should engage in such discussions to agree the process that will follow a 'yes' vote.

"The Scottish government agrees and looks to the UK government to work with it to that end."

UK ministers have said they have already begun setting out views on the post-referendum process.

However, David Cameron has said he would not ''pre-negotiate Scotland's exit from the United Kingdom".

And head of the pro-Union Better Together campaign Alistair Darling said the Scottish government plans lacked credibility.

He told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme: "What they are saying is that in less than a year you can break all the ties of the past and you can fix something entirely new.

"When you consider the currency, how you divide pensions, how we allocate debt, defence, let alone Europe, these are all issues in which the Scottish government is not going to tell us their position until the end of this year, less than 10 months before a referendum."

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie MSP said: "The SNP have hopelessly underestimated the scale and complexity of this. They would have to negotiate over 14,000 international treaties, a currency, the division of assets, membership of Nato and the host of international organisations.

"To say they will bang all this through in just 16 months is absurd. This will give most people in Scotland the shivers and fuel suspicion that the SNP are just making it up as they go along."

Scottish Greens are welcoming the publication of proposals by the Scottish Government for the transfer of powers and development of a constitution following a Yes vote in the independence referendum.

Patrick Harvie, co-convener of the Scottish Greens, said: "The approach suggested by the Scottish government will help voters and politicians alike to start considering the practical steps to be taken in the event of a Yes vote, and it will become ever clearer that independence will open up new opportunities to improve Scotland from day one."


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