Scottish Government publishes draft referendum bill that could lead to breakup of

first_img“Protecting Scotland’s interests is the most important job of this Government. We must have every option available to do this and it is for that reason we are now publishing the draft referendum bill for consultation.”As in 2014, the proposed franchise for the referendum will match that for Scottish Parliament elections.”That will mean that two important groups of people would have a voice that was denied to them in the recent referendum on EU membership: 16 and 17-year-olds and citizens of EU countries who have made Scotland their home.”The paper states that the government was elected with a mandate that the Scottish Parliament should have the right to hold another referendum if there was sustained evidence that independence had become the preferred option of a majority of voters, or if there was a material change in the circumstances that prevailed in 2014, such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against its will. Nicola Sturgeon It proposes the same franchise as in 2014, which would see EU citizens living in Scotland and 16 and 17-year-olds able to vote.It also states that an order similar to that drawn up by Westminster and the Scottish Parliament that allowed the 2014 vote take place “would be sought and agreed” – confirming a new vote needs the UK Government’s co-operation.The consultation includes proposals for the rules governing the referendum campaign, the conduct of the poll and the counting of votes. The public consultation will last until January 11 next year.In the foreword to the document, Ms Sturgeon said the UK Government’s recent statements on its approach to leaving the EU had raised serious concerns for her government.She added: “We face unacceptable risks to our democratic, economic and social interests and to the right of the Scottish Parliament to have its say. David Cameron and Alex Salmond The Scottish Government has been accused of “economic vandalism” after publishing a draft independence referendum bill that could pave the way for a snap poll on breaking-up Britain before Brexit.The document, published online with a consultation paper, suggests asking voters the same question they answered in 2014 – Should Scotland be an independent country?It does not mean a new vote will happen, but Nicola Sturgeon has repeatedly warned another referendum is “highly likely” following the EU vote, and insists separation must be an option open for Scotland if it cannot stay in the single market. Downing Street dismissed the need for a re-run, with a Number 10 spokesman saying: “The Prime Minister and the Government does not believe there is a mandate for one.”He added: “There was one only two years ago. There was an extremely high turnout and there was a resounding result in favour of Scotland remaining in the UK.” The spokesman also pointed out that “both sides agreed to abide by that referendum”. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. David Cameron and Alex Salmond meeting in 2012 to sign agreement on previous referendumCredit:EPA Scotland voted by 62 per cent to 38 per cent to remain in the EU in June, with Ms Sturgeon immediately instructing Scottish government officials to start drawing up plans for a fresh vote on independence.However, opinion polls suggest there has not been a major surge in support for separation and several senior figures in the SNP have counselled the First Minister against rushing into a new poll.Meanwhile, in the next few weeks she plans to bring forward proposals that she says could allow Scotland to remain in the Union while also staying in the single market , even if the rest of the UK leaves it.Ms Sturgeon is due to meet Theresa May in London on Monday. Kezia Dugdale, the Scottish Labour leader, said the bill was economic vandalism, adding: “Our economy is in trouble following David Cameron’s reckless Brexit gamble, and the very last thing we need is more uncertainty for employers.“This publication confirms that the SNP’s top priority is to divide our country. My message to the First Minister is this: we are divided enough, do not divide us again.“Instead of seeking fresh divisions, the SNP should be prioritising our public services such as education and healthcare. This is a referendum that Scotland does not need or want. Nicola Sturgeon should keep the promise she made that the 2014 referendum was a once-in-a-generation vote.”The new document sets out plans for a second poll to be decided by a simple majority, as was the case in 2014 when Scotland voted 55 per cent to 45 per cent to remain in the UK. Nicola Sturgeon takes to the stage at the recent SNP conferenceCredit:Reuterslast_img

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