Exactly two years ahead of Scotland’s planned day of independence on March 24th 2016, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has set out a timetable for delivering Scotland’s interim written constitution.
As part of her Wales Governance Centre Annual Lecture in Cardiff, Ms Sturgeon announced that - as part of the Scottish Government's ongoing preparations for the transition to independence, should people choose it in the referendum - the draft Scottish Independence Bill will be published before the Scottish Parliament’s summer recess.
The Bill will provide for Scotland to become an independent state in March 2016 and set out its interim constitution. The fundamental principle underpinning the Bill will be that, in Scotland, the people are sovereign. This core principle resonates throughout Scotland’s history and will be the foundation stone for Scotland as an independent country. The Bill will also set in place the process by which Scotland, as an independent country, will prepare its permanent written constitution in a fully participative process led by the people.
Following a vote for independence, the Scottish Independence Bill would be introduced to the Scottish Parliament. It would form the interim written constitution for Scotland until the constitutional convention, which would be established by the Scottish Parliament elected in May 2016, prepared a permanent constitution for Scotland.
As First Minister Alex Salmond outlined last year, that constitutional convention will involve input from a wide cross-section of civic Scotland, articulating the nation’s values and enshrining them in a permanent written constitution.
Ms Sturgeon said:
“Today, the date which will become our independence day following a vote for independence this September, I want everyone in Scotland to consider who we are as a nation and what we have the potential to become.
“Independence is not a historical argument, it is the opposite – a live and vital opportunity to chart our own course, to give us the power to determine our own future and build the kind of country we can all be proud of.
“A written constitution is an important part of a nation’s identity – it defines who we are and sets out the values that we hold dear. Currently we are without a written constitution, and the UK is the only country within the European Union or the Commonwealth that does not have a written constitution or a constitution Act – that is a democratic deficit an independent Scotland will not replicate.
“It is a cornerstone of Scottish democracy that sovereignty rests with the people. That is why we want to make the drafting of our permanent written constitution an inclusive process involving all the people of Scotland – it must be a constitution by the people, for the people – articulating Scotland’s values, enhancing our liberties and defining our responsibilities.
“I believe the process of drafting our constitution will energise and inspire people across the country - woman and men, young and old, rural and urban, people in all the diverse communities that make up modern Scotland. It would be an exciting and unique opportunity to shape our nation, celebrate and protect our values and commit ourselves to building a better country.”
In her Cardiff lecture, Ms Sturgeon will also set out the economic and social case for Scotland becoming independent. She will argue that the notion of the UK as a partnership of equals is being undermined by those leading the argument against independence. And she will say that the social union between Scotland and the other nations of the British Isles will be strengthened, not weakened, if Scotland becomes an independent country.
Notes to editors
The draft Scottish Independence Bill which includes the interim constitution for an independent Scotland will be published for consultation ahead of the Scottish Parliament’s summer recess.
Between the referendum in September 2014 and independence in March 2016, the current devolved parliament would set out an interim constitutional platform for an independent nation – putting in place the legal necessities for Scotland to become independent.