Holyrood’s Referendum Bill Committee has unanimously recommended to the Parliament that a draft section 30 Order be approved, bringing the independence referendum in Scotland one step closer.
The intention to grant Holyrood temporary legal powers to hold a referendum that is beyond effective legal challenge follows on from October’s ‘Edinburgh Agreement’ between the Scottish and UK Governments.
Referendum Bill Committee Convener Bruce Crawford MSP said:
“A key part of the Edinburgh Agreement is the promotion of a section 30 Order. This includes certain conditions, including that the referendum must be held before the end of 2014 and must give voters the choice of only two responses. It also makes provision for referendum campaign broadcasts and for the free postal delivery of leaflets by the Yes and No campaigns.
“The first task for this committee has been to consider the draft order, and it is with genuine satisfaction that I can report that we have unanimously recommended its approval to the Parliament.
“The evidence heard by this committee reflects this is indeed a historic moment on the path to a referendum. Importantly, the evidence also demonstrates a consensus of political and expert opinion that the order will put the legality of a referendum bill beyond effective legal challenge.
“To me, one of the key features of the Edinburgh Agreement is that it commits both governments to working together constructively after the referendum – whatever the outcome. In the same spirit, I would like to commend the whole committee for the very constructive and responsible way in which it has so far gone about its task.”
The Referendum (Scotland) Bill Committee was established by the Parliament on 23 October 2012 to scrutinise the legislation that will provide the basis for the referendum on Scottish independence, expected to be held in autumn 2014.
The committee’s main task will be consideration of the Referendum (Scotland) Bill, which the Scottish Government expects to introduce in early 2013 and to be passed in October of that year (with Royal Assent in November).
There will also be a separate “paving” Bill on aspects of voter registration, which the Scottish Government expects to introduce around the same time and which it hopes the Parliament will be able to pass before the summer recess.
The next step will be for the Parliament as a whole to consider a motion to agree the section 30 Order.
Both Houses of Parliament at Westminster must also agree the order before it can be made by the Privy Council in February 2013
Read the Referendum (Scotland) Bill Committee's full report.