30/11/2009

Scottish Makes Independence Bid

Scotland's First Minister today published a White Paper which could lead the way for a referendum on national independence.

Alex Salmond said, after a decade of devolved powers to Holyrood, there is now a clear demand for "constitutional progress".

"The vast majority of people want to expand the responsibilities of the Parliament, so that we have more powers to do more for Scotland - the economic and financial clout to fight recession and support recovery, the right to speak up for Scotland in Europe, and the ability to remove Trident nuclear weapons from our soil," he said.

"The debate in Scottish politics is no longer between change or no change - it's about the kind of change we seek, and the right of the people to choose their future in a free and fair referendum," continued the First Minister.

Today's White Paper, published on St Andrew's Day, could pave the way for a Referendum Bill early next year.

Mr Salmond's Scottish National Party does not have enough clout within the current administration to push forward a referendum, but the White Paper highlights several options.

These include retaining the current set-up of limited devolved powers, transferring greater responsibilities, as discussed in the Calman report, or implementing a system of full autonomy from Westminster.

Mr Salmond said popular opinion in Scotland has "moved far beyond the status quo".

"And Calman has also been shown to fall behind the needs of the people - with the UK Government refusing to make any progress on important issues such as air weapons this side of the election, and substantial doubt as to what if anything will happen afterwards."

Constitution Minister Michael Russell said the White Paper is a broad and detailed assessment of "where Scotland stands today".

"The people of Scotland have expressed their hopes, views and aspirations through the National Conversation. Their voice must be heard in a referendum, and no politician should seek to stand in their way."

(PR/BMcC)

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