Liberal Democrat Secretary of State for Scotland wrote in this weekend’s Scotland on Sunday about the next steps as Scotland approaches the referendum on independence which will take place in the Autumn of 2014.
Now that the relevant Section 30 Order, giving the Scottish Parliament the power to hold that referendum is clearing its way through Parliament, the focus turns to the issues rather than the process:
But we need the “great debate” to flush out all the issues. Over the next few weeks and months, the UK Government will start publishing a series of papers that look at Scotland’s position in the UK today and make clear the choices that would face all of us as Scots if the UK family were to break up. This will be a serious body of work to inform the public debate.
One thing that won’t be happening, ahead of the decision, though, are talks on how the split would be managed if the Scottish people voted for independence:
In any split, the hard decision to leave happens before the difficult work of dividing up assets and debts. I hope and believe that Scots will choose to keep the UK family together, not split it apart. But if I am wrong, and Scots vote to leave the United Kingdom, only then will negotiations between Scotland and the rest of the UK begin.
Scotland’s two governments agree that this is right. As the Scottish Government has said, if people vote to leave the UK both sides will need to take stock after the result, prepare for negotiations and then come to those talks ready to argue for their interests.
As the Edinburgh Agreement set out, both governments are committed to continuing to work together constructively, whatever the outcome. But working constructively does not mean that the remainder of the UK family would or could facilitate everything the Scottish Government proposes. If people in Scotland choose to go it alone, those representing Scotland will make their case. Similarly, the UK Government would then have to prioritise the interests of the people it represents in England, Wales and Northern Ireland – and agreement could only be reached on that basis.
You can read the whole article here.
* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings