News In Focus
Referendum and same-sex marriage in new Holyrood programme
4 September 2012
The long-awaited bill providing for a referendum on independence is part of the Scottish Government's legislative programme for the coming year – but public debate may well be dominated by legislation to permit same-sex marriage.
Both measures are among the 15 bills announced today by First Minister Alex Salmond as he set out his ministers' plans for 2012-13. The substantial programme of legal measures also covers bankruptcy, children and young people, criminal justice, victims and witnesses, public procurement, better regulation, the land and buildings transaction tax and landfill tax, and tribunals.
In summary the aims of the bills are:
Referendum: To make provision for an independence referendum to be held in autumn 2014, including the date of the referendum, the franchise, the procedures to be followed, and oversight arrangements.
Marriage and Civil Partnership: To allow same-sex couples to marry, allow civil partnerships to be registered through a religious ceremony. No religious bodies and celebrants will have to take part in same-sex ceremonies, unless they wish to do so. Consultation will continue on how to protect freedom of speech and religion, and address specific concerns that have been expressed.
Bankruptcy: To modernise bankruptcy law and ensure access to fair and just processes of debt relief and debt management, while returning as much as possible to creditors.
Children and Young People: To put in place a coherent statutory framework for planning and delivery of services provided to children and young people, aid the practical realisation of children’s rights, and make provision for a minimum of 600 hours' free early learning and childcare provision.
Criminal Justice: To reform and modernise the system for investigation and prosecution of crime in Scotland, following the reviews of Lord Carloway in relation to criminal procedure generally, and Sheriff Principal Bowen in relation to sheriff and jury procedure. "It will", the official statement narrates, "ensure Scotland is at the forefront of human rights practice in relation to suspects and accused persons, while at the same time promoting the rights of victims by removing outdated rules on sufficiency of evidence."
Victims and Witnesses: To improve the support available for victims and witnesses, including provision to widen access to special measures (such as the use of CCTV links) to protect vulnerable witnesses; and ensuring that offenders contribute to the cost of supporting victims.
Procurement Reform: To establish a national legislative framework for sustainable public procurement that supports economic growth and promotes processes and systems which are "transparent, streamlined, standardised, proportionate, fair and business-friendly".
Better Regulation: To take steps to improve the way regulations are applied in practice across Scotland, providing for example national regulation systems and standards. There will be specific measures for further reform of planning, and simplifying the legislative framework for environmental regulation and enforcement.
Land and Buildings Transaction Tax: To set out how the proposed replacement for stamp duty land tax will operate under a distinctly Scottish based approach, embedded in Scots law and practices.
Landfill Tax: To put in place a replacement for landfill tax in Scotland.
Tribunals: To establish a new, simplified statutory framework for tribunals that determine matters falling within devolved competence, bringing together tribunals that currently operate in a disparate manner and establishing a new system for appeals.
Adult Health & Social Care Integration Bill: To reform planning and provision of adult health and social care services.
Post-16 Education Reform: To provide an underpinning legal basis for some aspects of the Government’s programme of post-16 learning reform, including college and university structure and provision, college regionalisation and widening access.
The remaining bills concern the Forth Estuary Transport Authority in relation to the Forth crossings; and the annual Budget measure.