Public Law

The Scottish Parliament last week passed the Scottish Independence Referendum Bill. The Bill sets out the referendum rules – among other things, it confirms the date (18 September 2014) and the question that will be asked (“Should Scotland be an independent country?”), and sets out the rules on campaign spending and the mechanics of voting. The franchise was already determined by the Scottish Independence Referendum (Franchise) Act 2013 (to which section 2 of the Referendum Bill refers, albeit in a very oddly drafted manner).

If you’re interested in the Official Reports and Amendments as the Bill passed through the Scottish Parliament, you can find the relevant documents here. Some of the media coverage of the Bill’s passage is here and here.

Other recent developments in the independence debate include the publication of two further papers in the UK Government’s ‘Scotland Analysis’ series. The first paper, on Defence, argued that Scotland benefits from the full range of UK defence capabilities, and explained (one would hope unnecessarily) that an independent Scotland would need to establish its own defence arrangements. The second paper dealt with Science & Research and argued, perhaps again unsurprisingly, that the UK’s integrated approach to research funding and facilities helps Scotland’s research base.

Meanwhile, the Institute for Fiscal Studies has today issued a report on the economics of independence, which has provided food for comment for both sides of the debate (with each of them drawing entirely opposite conclusions, naturally).

John Swinney will be launching the Scottish Government’s own report on the economy in Dundee tomorrow, the timing of which will be intended to play into the publication of the Scottish Government’s White Paper on Independence on Tuesday of next week. The House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee last week sought to raise the stakes for the Scottish Government in advance of the White Paper, by publishing a report demanding that the Paper meet the “highest standards of accuracy and clarity” when setting out what an independent Scotland might look like (and of course offering some views of their own on what those standards might require).

We will be reviewing the White Paper as soon as it is published next week, and commenting on any key legal issues in this blog, so do stay tuned.

In the meantime, the BBC Trust has today launched a 12 week consultation seeking views on the BBC Executive’s proposed guidelines for the BBC’s reporting on the referendum.