Scotland publishes new independence bill

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon published a draft bill for a second independence referendum on Thursday, in the wake of Scotland’s ‘NO’ vote in the European Referendum.

The second bill is merely a formal consultation with no date set, however Sturgeon has said that a second referendum looks “highly likely”.

“The consultation beginning today will ensure that a referendum bill, if it is the chosen route, will – like the 2014 referendum – meet the gold standard of democracy and fairness,” the First Minister said in a statement.

“This government was elected on a specific manifesto pledge that the Scottish Parliament should be able to consider an independence referendum if there was a material change in circumstances, such as Scotland being taken out of the European Union against its will,” she added.

“The country now faces exactly that prospect, including the likelihood of it being a hard Brexit with all the additional damage that will do to Scotland’s economy and jobs, which is why this bill is being published for consultation.”

It is expected that the same yes/no question would be used again – “Should Scotland be an independent country?”. However, the Scottish government reserves the right to submit a proposal for different wording to the Electoral Commission for independent testing.

16 and 17 year-olds and citizens of EU countries who have made Scotland their home would be able to vote again, with the referendum not being subject to any minimum turnout requirement or an approval threshold.

Whilst polls have shown that Scots would still reject independence from the UK, Sturgeon is insistent on holding a second referendum before Britain formally leaves the EU in March 2019.

Drafting of a second bill has been criticised by pro-union parties who argue that there is no need for another “divisive” referendum, and pledge to fight it “every step of the way”.