Scottish Independence Referendum

The respective governments of Britain and Scotland have recently signed a historic deal that will to allow Scotland to hold a referendum in 2014 on whether it wants to remain part of the United Kingdom or secede from the 300-year-old political union.

Under the terms of the agreement, voters will be asked to say “yes” or “no” to a single question: whether they want an independent Scotland? For the referendum, voting age will be reduced to 16. Mr. Cameron’s Conservative Party and the two other mainstream national parties — Labour and the Liberal Democrats — will promote a “No” vote.

Background to the Scottish Independence Referendum

The United Kingdom is made up of four countries (one of the terms used) : England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Its full name is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

  • The Great Britain comprises three countries – England, Scotland and Wales.
  • However, England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are not formal subdivisions of the United Kingdom and various terms (including countries) are used to describe them.
  • The sovereign entity is United Kingdom which represents all these four countries in intergovernmental organizations.
  • UK is the representative member state within the European Union and United Nations, as well as under international law.
  • England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are not themselves listed on the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) list of countries.
  • Scotland has no sovereignty and United Kingdom Parliament has power over Scotland’s territory. Scotland does not have external recognition nor does Scotland have its own embassies in other independent countries. Scotland is represented in the UK Cabinet by the Secretary of State for Scotland.
  • The Supreme legislative body of the United Kingdom & British Overseas territories is British parliament. In 1707 , following the ratification of the “Acts of Union” by both the Parliament of England and parliament of Scotland, the Parliament of Great Britain was formed. This act of Union of 1707 dissolved the separate English and Scottish parliaments. In 1800 the Act of Union merged the separate British and Irish Parliaments into a single Parliament of the United Kingdom.
  • In recent times, there have been debates and campaigns for both independence of Scotland as well as remaining with UK itself.

Timeline:

A proposal for Scottish devolution was put to a referendum in 1979, but resulted in no change, despite a narrow majority of votes cast being in favour of change. Then, came a commitment to hold a referendum in 2010 as part of the SNP’s election manifesto the Current Government of Scotland when it contested the 2007 Scottish Parliament election. As a result of that election, it became the largest party in the Scottish Parliament. After forming the Scottish Government in 2007, the SNP had a long standing policy of not holding any referendum until 2010.

The Scottish Government published a draft version of the bill on 25 February 2010 for public consultation with three proposals – three proposals. The first proposal was one of full devolution or ‘devolution max’, suggesting that the Scottish Parliament should be responsible for “all laws, taxes and duties in Scotland”, with the exception of “defence and foreign affairs; financial regulation, monetary policy and the currency,” which would be retained by the UK government.

The second proposal outlined Calman type fiscal reform, gaining the additional powers and responsibilities of setting a Scottish rate of income tax, setting the rate of stamp duty land tax and “other minor taxes”, and introducing new taxes in Scotland with the agreement of the UK parliament. The third proposal was for full independence, stating that the Scottish Parliament would gain the powers to be able to convert Scotland into a country which would “have the rights and responsibilities of a normal, sovereign state”. This state would be a full Member State of the European Union, with the consequent social and economic relationship with the remainder of the UK which is already a member. Queen Elizabeth would remain as Scotland’s head of state, while the United Kingdom would “become a monarchical and social Union – united kingdoms rather than a United Kingdom – maintaining a relationship forged in 1603 by the Union of the Crowns”. The currency of Scotland would remain as the pound sterling (£) unless or until the Scottish electorate chose to adopt the euro (€), which would be left to a separate referendum.

The Scottish National Party repeated its commitment to hold an independence referendum when it published its election manifesto for the 2011 Scottish parliamentary election, in which it won an absolute majority for the first time. The SNP gained an overall majority in the election, winning 69 of the 129 seats available, thereby gaining a mandate to hold an independence referendum.

In January 2012, the UK government offered to legislate to provide the Scottish Parliament with the specific powers to hold a referendum, and Scottish Government then announced that they intended the referendum to be held in 2014 and rejected the UK government’s offer. The SNP has proposed to reduce the voting age for the referendum from 18 to 16 in the proposal of 2014.

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