Foreword by the First Minister
The National Conversation, launched in August 2007, has been a unique exercise in participative democracy. People across Scotland - from the voluntary sector, trades unions, business and local communities - took part through public meetings, written contributions and online.
On St Andrew's Day 2009 we published the White Paper Your Scotland, Your Voice, a comprehensive examination of the options for Scotland's future - the status quo, further devolution and independence.
This Government believes in the sovereignty of the people of Scotland. We are committed to giving the people the opportunity to express their views in a referendum. More than 10 years on from the establishment of the Scottish Parliament the debate in Scotland is no longer about whether or not the Parliament should take on new responsibilities. The people want our Parliament to be able to do more, so the debate is now about how much more. And it is time the people had their say.
I believe that the future prosperity and development of Scotland is best served by Scotland becoming independent. The case for an independent Scotland is stronger and more urgent following recent economic events. It is exactly the flexibility that is offered by independence that Scotland needs if it is to deal most effectively with such challenges in the future. But I recognise that there are also those who argue that the responsibilities of the Scottish Parliament should be extended in more limited ways.
The draft Referendum Bill set out in this document would give the Scottish people the opportunity to have their say on two questions: first, whether the Scottish Parliament should have more devolved responsibility; second, whether there should be an additional transfer of the power to enable Scotland to become an independent country. The document seeks views on the best option for the question on further devolution: full devolution including fiscal autonomy, or the more limited proposals for the financing of the Scottish Parliament made by the Commission on Scottish Devolution.
The draft Bill provides the framework for a referendum shaped by the people of Scotland. I look forward to your response to this consultation, the debate on the Bill, and the referendum itself.
The Rt Hon Alex Salmond MPMSP
First Minister of Scotland