Scottish Government Publishes Proposal for Full IndependenceWorld | December 1, 2009, Tuesday // 17:37| views
The Scottish Parliament has published proposals for constitutional change, including the option of complete independence. Photo by BGNES
The government of Scotland has published on St. Andrew’s Day its official report on the future of its constitution, including the option of full national independence.
Speaking on Monday, the Scottish national day, the First Minister, Alex Salmond, declared that Scotland must become independent to meet its full economic potential.
He described a number of options to be discussed, including a recommendation for giving more power to the Scottish Parliament. Full independence, however, is the favored option.
"It's time for the people to have their say on Scotland's future.
"The debate in Scottish politics is no longer between change or no change - it's about the kind of change we seek and the right of the people to choose their future in a free and fair referendum," Salmond said.
The scenarios set out in the so-called White Paper include: no change to the present set-up; more powers, as recommended in June 2009 by the Calman Commision on Scottish Devolution; and a major transfer of responsibilities from Westminster to Holyrood, such as full financial autonomy; and total independence.
The plan for a national referendum on the question of independence has proved contentious. A Referendum Bill is to be published in 2010, and only then will the ballot paper contents be revealed.
However, the minority Scottish National Party (SNP) does not have enough support from opposition parties to stage a referendum in 2010. The SNP, which has 47 MSPs, would need the support of the pro-independence Greens and 16 other members to gain a majority for the referendum in parliament.
Opposition leaders have voiced their criticisms of the plan, even on economic grounds.
Scottish Labour Party leader Iain Gray insisted his party did not fear a referendum, but called on the Scottish government to drop it and focus on more immediate concerns, such as the recession.
"We should not be distracting ourselves with a referendum, with a question which we don't even know, with options we don't even know," he said.
"It could cost anything up to £12m - that's public resources which could be put to far better use protecting and creating jobs here in Scotland and I think that's what Scots want us to be doing."
Conservative leader Annabel Goldie, added: "This referendum bill is a complete waste of public resources on something that the people of Scotland clearly don't want.
The SNP White Paper came just days after the UK government proposed to hand more responsibility to Holyrood, following the Calman review.
The plans included the power to vary the rate of income tax by up to 10p in the pound and responsibility for drink drive and speed limits.
However, none of these measures would be implemented until after the next UK election, which has to be held before the end of June 2010.
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