Alex Salmond unveils Scottish referendum question

 

First Minister Alex Salmond today unveiled his plans for a "straightforward" vote on independence which could see Scotland leave the United Kingdom.

Mr Salmond launched the Scottish Government's consultation on a £10 million referendum at Holyrood.

He told MSPs the question that would be put to voters would be "short, straightforward and clear".

The Scottish Government proposes asking Scots: "Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?".

Mr Salmond said the period in the run-up to the independence vote would be the "most exciting in Scotland's modern history".

He stated: "At the end of that period, in autumn 2014, people the length and breadth of our country will have their say in Scotland's independence referendum.

"Independence, in essence, is based on a simple idea: the people who care most about Scotland, that is the people who live, work and bring up their families in Scotland, should be the ones taking the decisions about our nation's future.

"No-one else is going to do a better job of making Scotland a success. No-one else has the same stake in our future. The people of Scotland should be in charge."

As well as the question on independence, Mr Salmond said the ballot could include the option of greatly-enhanced powers for Holyrood.

He argued if there was "wide support" for the so-called devo max option, it was "only fair and democratic" it be included.

"The Scottish Government's position is for independence," Mr Salmond said.

"Therefore, that option will appear on the ballot paper in a straightforward manner."

However, he added: "If there is an alternative of maximum devolution which would command wide support in Scotland, then it is only fair and democratic that option should be among the choices open to the people of Scotland.

"We will not, as the UK Government seems to want, eliminate that choice simply because it might be popular."

While UK elections are traditionally held on a Thursday, the consultation raises the possibility of having the referendum on a Saturday to help boost turnout.

The Scottish Government also proposes extending the vote to 16 and 17-year-olds.

The Scottish National Party (SNP) leader said: "It is right that our young people should have the chance to play their part in decisions about their community and their country.

"If a 16-year-old in Scotland can register to join the Army, get married and pay taxes, surely he or she should be able to have a say in this country's constitutional future?"

The consultation proposes using elections watchdog the Electoral Commission to regulate the referendum.

But Labour claimed its role was being diluted by the SNP, with shadow Scottish secretary Margaret Curran stating: "At present, the Electoral Commission has to rule on the wording of the question on the ballot paper because it is a point of principle that it shouldn't be for politicians alone to pick.

"Alex Salmond's proposal to strip the Electoral Commission of its legal responsibility to rule on the question will fuel suspicion and is simply not acceptable."

She added: "It is completely wrong to agree to a neutral referee but then stop it doing its most important job.

"Watering down the role of the watchdog is simply not democratic."

The consultation proposes spending caps for the referendum campaign, suggesting designated lead campaign organisations spend no more than £750,000 and a maximum £250,000 for political parties in the Scottish Parliament.

If Scots voted for independence, negotiations would then take place between Holyrood and Westminster on ending the union.

Mr Salmond said there would then be a "more modern relationship between the nations of these islands - a partnership of equals".

However, Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont said the consultation paper did "little for those who fear this process is not a fair one".

She said: "The First Minister asserts as truth his own view of the future of Scotland, and misrepresents the position of those who want to remain in the United Kingdom."

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said Scots both wanted and deserved a "fair, legal and decisive referendum, held as soon as possible".

She said: "What the First Minister posited today is a fair and decisive legal question, which I welcome. What we now need to ensure is that it is asked in a legal referendum."

The UK Government insists that the Scottish Government does not have the authority to stage an independence ballot.

It has already launched a consultation on its proposal, with the offer of Holyrood having its powers temporarily extended to allow it to hold a vote on the country's constitutional future.

Scottish Secretary Michael Moore said there was "much to welcome" in the Scottish Government's consultation.

He stated: "The Scottish Government has stated its preference for a 'short, direct question about independence', just as the UK Government supports a single decisive question.

"Both agree on the role of the Electoral Commission in providing a fair process and the Scottish Government also recognise the fact that Westminster has a key role to play in this issue in terms of ensuring the legality of any referendum.

"This is a good base to build on as we listen to the views of people across Scotland and further afield."

He again stated the UK Government's view that the SNP administration lacks the legal power to hold an independence referendum.

Mr Moore argued: "Any attempt to pass legislation for either an independence or 'devo-max' referendum would be outside the existing powers of the Scottish Parliament and liable to legal challenge.

"We have made it clear that we think the Scottish Government would lose such a challenge."

He continued: "The UK Government still believes that it is in the interests of the Scottish people and economy to have a referendum sooner rather than later.

"But we also agree that this is the biggest decision facing Scotland in 300 years and there is no better argument for making it fair, legal and decisive.

"I will be discussing all of these points with the First Minister when I meet him in the near future, and I look forward to what I think should be a constructive meeting."

Mr Salmond and Mr Moore had been due to have talks on the referendum on Friday. However, these have had to be cancelled after the Scottish Secretary contracted chickenpox.

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Voices
Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and David Cameron appeal to the audience during the Question Time special
voices
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
News
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Sport
football
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
News
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
news
News
Michelle Dockery plays Lady Mary in Downton Abbey
peopleBut who comes top of the wish list?
News
Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, right, with Lib Dem candidate Jane Dodds in Newtown, Powys, as part of her tour in support of the party’s female candidates
general electionNick Clegg's wife has impressed during the campaign
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living