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Referendum Bill passes final stage

15 November 2013

The bill providing for next September's independence referendum has passed its final stage at Holyrood.

MSPs unanimously approved the Scottish Independence Referendum Bill following its stage 3 debate yesterday.

The bill confirms that the vote, on 18 September 2014, will be on the question: “Should Scotland be an independent country?”and will be overseen by the independent Electoral Commission.

A 16-week formal campaign period will precede the poll.

During the debate, MSPs rejected Labour amendments designed to prevent organisations breaching the spending limits by setting up connected bodies that would register separately. Labour spokesperson Lewis Macdonald, supported by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, argued that the amendmenys would "ensure that organisations and individuals that are permitted to spend money are open and honest with the voters about who they are".

However, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that ministers had worked with the Electoral Commission on alternative amendments which would "strike a balance in avoiding overregulation for small campaigners at the same time as ensuring that there are safeguards to prevent abuse of the campaign regulations".

Under her "common plan" rules, which were approved, where campaigners work together without a designated organisation, expenses that are incurred by any of them under the common plan will also be taken to have been incurred by the others.

After the debate Ms Sturgeon said: “The Edinburgh Agreement confirmed that next September’s referendum should be legislated for by the Scottish Parliament and that it should be conducted so as to command the confidence of parliaments, governments and people.

“With today’s vote, Holyrood has fulfilled that objective. It is a strong message that, whatever our political differences, we have agreed the rules and the procedure to be followed in the referendum. “I hope we can continue in this spirit as we make our case for either outcome by committing to engage in a constructive and respectful debate."

The Scottish Government's white paper on independence will be published later this month.

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