MSPs to debate indyref2 ‘framework’ legislation
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MSPs to debate indyref2 ‘framework’ legislation

November 7, 2019

MSPs to debate indyref2 ‘framework’ legislation MSPs are to debate legislation that lays the groundwork for a new Scottish independence referendum at Holyrood  The Scottish government wants to hold a new ballot in 2020 and has tabled the Referendums Bill to pave the way  There have been calls for parts of the bill to be amended, in particular over whether the Electoral Commission would test the question for “indyref2”  However, the legislation is expected to progress with the backing of the SNP and the Greens in any case  The issue of a referendum has become a key topic of debate in the general election campaign, with the SNP putting it “at the heart” of their platform and Labour and the Conservatives disputing whether they would agree to hold one in future  The Referendums (Scotland) Bill sets the general framework for any referendum, and would give ministers the power to set the date, question and campaign period of any poll later  First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has targeted having the bill in law “by the new year” as part of her campaign for a vote in the second half of 2020  She has also pledged to formally request a transfer of power from Westminster – similar to the agreement prior to the 2014 referendum, which she said would put the legality of the vote “beyond any doubt” – before Christmas  However, the Conservatives, Labour and the Lib Dems are opposed to a second referendum and are expected to speak out during the first formal debate and vote on the legislation  One key point of debate is likely to be the question for any new referendum, with ministers so far resisting calls to allow electoral watchdogs to have a say on it  The Electoral Commission would normally be brought in to test the question for any plebiscite, but the bill as it stands would not require this if the “yes” or “no” question used in 2014 was repeated  The Commission “firmly recommend” they are allowed to test the question again regardless, and Holyrood’s constitution committee unanimously said ministers “must recognise the weight of evidence in favour” of this and come to an agreement with the watchdog  Constitution Secretary Mike Russell has said he is open to talks with the Commission on a range of topics, although he has also said he is “against retesting” and Ms Sturgeon has claimed the move is part of opposition parties seeking to “rig the entire process”  The committee also called for ministerial powers to call referendums in the bill to be stripped back, saying new primary legislation should be required for any vote on a constitutional matter  If this were to be added, another bill might need to be passed before an independence referendum could happen  At a rally in Glasgow on Saturday, Ms Sturgeon told supporters that a new vote would allow “Scotland’s future to be put into Scotland’s hands”  She said: “It is time for Scotland to choose our own future. It is time for Scotland to be an independent country  “An independent country that will be the best of friends and family with our neighbours across the British Isles, across Europe and across the world ” At the same event, Scottish Green co-leader Patrick Harvie said a “broad and inclusive” campaign could win independence, adding: “In the face of the hard-right Brexit project we must have the ability to protect Scotland and everyone who lives here from what is to come “‘Independence obsession’ The SNP and Greens hold a majority of seats between them at Holyrood, so will be able to pass the referendum legislation  However the Scottish Conservatives have pledged to oppose the bill “every step of the way”, while Labour and the Lib Dems are also against having another vote  The Tories say Ms Sturgeon’s “independence obsession” would lead to “another damaging and divisive referendum”  Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said on Wednesday that his party “oppose independence and believe another independence referendum is undesirable and unnecessary”  And Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie said independence “means years of chaos and distraction”, arguing that both this and Brexit should be “ditched”

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