News In Focus
Parliaments agree referendum framework
15 October 2012
The stage is now set for Scotland’s historic independence referendum, following intense negotiations between Westminster and Holyrood over the timing and ground rules for the poll.
In a compromise which has seen both parliaments give ground, the deal – signed by Alex Salmond and David Cameron in Edinburgh today – grants Holyrood the legal right to hold the referendum until the end of 2014, under a Section 30 order.
Acquiescing to Westminster’s demand that there should be a straight yes or no question, with no ‘third option’ for extended powers, the Scottish Parliament was otherwise given a largely free hand on key issues such as the wording of the question and enfranchisement of 16 and 17 year-olds.
The agreement sets in motion a raft of constitutional processes which must be worked through before the referendum takes place, not least the passage of the Referendum Bill through the Scottish Parliament in time to receive Royal Assent toward the end of next year.
Although the referendum campaign is unlikely to begin officially until 2014, the speed with which both camps rushed to declare the agreement a victory reflects the heat already set under this landmark debate.
Austin Lafferty, President of the Society, welcomed the agreement.
He said: "Subject to parliamentary approval, this agreement removes the possibility of any successful legal challenge to the competence of the Scottish Parliament to hold a referendum on independence, and it helps to ensure that the referendum will be clear, fair, legal and decisive.
"Having now resolved the procedural issues, the debate can now move on to the substantive detail of Scotland's constitutional future. The Scottish people deserve a mature, reasoned and informed debate as they are asked to answer the biggest constitutional question in 300 years. Everyone has a part to play in that debate over these next two years".