Everything You Need to Know About the New Scottish Independence Bill

First of all, it's a draft and hasn't been signed off by Scottish parliament. But Nicola Sturgeon looks set on pushing for independence from the UK again.

by Zoe Denton
21 October 2016, 12:00am

(Photo by Flickr User the Laird of Oldham via)

Almost four months later, there still doesn't seem to be a plan. On Thursday morning, MPs from across the UK grilled David Davis, the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, in the Commons. He didn't have much to offer in terms of actual direct answers about how we're going to leave the EU, but implied that Labour asking about details of the negotiation with the European Commission would undercut the UK's bargaining position. Britain wants the "best possible access to the EU", and that's about as much detail as you'll get for now.

But not everyone is keen to wait for Davis to lay out a concrete exit strategy. Up in Scotland, while the Commons questioning rolled on, the Scottish National Party published a draft independence referendum bill. Scotland voted overwhelmingly to stay in the EU – 62 percent opting to remain and 38 percent to leave – so the whole "getting dragged out based on the other countries' vote" thing has turned into a battle First Minister Nicola Sturgeon's fought for the country's best interests. "Remoaners" in England have been told to suck it up, but Sturgeon's set out a plan for how Scotland may look to leave the UK in order to negotiate a better deal with the EU.

"In the immediate aftermath of the EU referendum," Sturgeon wrote in the draft bill's introduction, "as we face the social, economic and financial damage that leaving the EU will bring, I made it clear that I would explore all options to protect Scotland's vital national interests and that the Scottish government would begin, in line with the commitment we were elected on, to prepare the required legislation to enable a new independence referendum to be held if it became clear that was the only or best way of protecting those interests." Translation: if this whole leaving the EU thing turns into a disaster, I'll try to pull Scotland out of the UK if that's what would be best for Scotland.

Here's the basic gist of the new draft bill, and what to expect from it.


For the most part, the draft lays out similar rules to IndyRef 1.0. You'd still be eligible to vote if you're as young as 16, and EU citizens who live and work in Scotland would also still have the right to vote on the decision. As ever, people who've been convicted of a crime or are serving time in prison on the day of the referendum wouldn't be allowed to vote.

This is the list of everyone who'd technically be eligible:

  • British citizens living in Scotland
  • Commonwealth citizens living in Scotland
  • Citizens of the Republic of Ireland and other EU countries who live in Scotland
  • Members of the House of Lords who live in Scotland
  • Armed Forces personnel serving in the UK or overseas, or "with Her Majesty's Government" who are registered to vote in Scotland


At this stage, with a draft bill going out for consultation before Scottish Parliament could decide on whether to accept it, voters would likely face the same yes/no question they did in the 2014 vote: "Should Scotland be an independent country?" The SNP's draft bill does say that the question could change after consultation with Scotland's government, but would then need to be vetted and tested by the Electoral Commission.

(Photo: Chris Giles)


If only 10,000 people showed up to vote, that would still decide it. Turnout for the 2014 referendum was memorably high, at 84.6 percent, but a second referendum also wouldn't require a minimum turnout of voters.


Ah yes, section 30. As in 2014, if Scotland's government decided to take this draft bill to Parliament, it would need to come to an agreement on IndyRef 2.0 with Westminster, by way of what's called an order of section 30 of the Scotland Act 1998. Basically, the UK government would need to be cool with recognising the mandate of the Scottish government, with the backing of its parliament, to put the question of independence to the people of Scotland.

At this point, there isn't much statistical evidence to suggest a post-Brexit groundswell of support in favour of Scotland leaving the UK. Online polling from mid-September showed that about 48 percent of people would have voted for Scottish independence if asked on the spot that day, and 52 percent would have opted to stay in the UK. Given that the final result was a 55/45 split in favour of staying in the UK, the changes that have taken place have been on an almost granular level.

People's minds seem to change from month-to-month, based on how they think staying in the UK while not in the EU could work in favour for Scotland or not – and there's evidence to suggest that voters have flip-flopped when measuring up if independence from Westminster or Brussels would offer their country a better deal. In any case, the post-Brexit marathon continues, and there's no telling where Scotland's priorities may lie in another four months.

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