Scotland independence referendum pushed forward in 2012 for people’s choiceSouce:Xinhua Publish By Thomas Whittle Updated 01/01/2013 5:53 am in World / no comments
by Guo Chunju
EDINBURGH, Dec. 31 — Scotland’s independence referendum was pushed forward in 2012 which began in January with the consultation Your Scotland, Your Voice, culminated with the signing of the Edinburgh Agreement in October, and ended with heated debates and step-by-step preparations for the 2014 referendum.
For some common Scottish people, independence was described as a “dream” and the campaign was seen as politicians’ games, while the people’s common interests are better life in the future.
On Jan. 25, 2012, Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond unveiled the question the Scottish National Party (SNP) government intends to ask voters in a referendum in 2014 “Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?”
Heated debates between the British government and the pro-independence SNP had taken the spotlight in British media before that.
British Prime Minister David Cameron demanded clarity for the referendum and granted Scotland the legal authority to hold a legally binding referendum, but imposed conditions.
First, the vote should be restricted to a decision on whether Scotland should remain in or leave the United Kingdom. This rules out the possibility of achieving greater autonomy directly through the referendum, especially in the aspect of the economy, as many had expected.
Second, the referendum should be held by an earlier date, which the media believe should be before the middle of 2013. However, Salmond was reportedly rejected the requirements from London.
On Oct. 15, Salmond and Cameron signed the Edinburgh Agreement at a face-to-face meeting in Edinburgh, which states that there will be a single Yes/No question referendum about Scotland independence in Autumn 2014 with no detailed date revealed and 16 and 17-year-olds eligible to vote.
Cameron said the agreement “marks the beginning of an important chapter in Scotland’s story and allows the real debate to begin,” making it clear that it is now up to the people of Scotland to make “that historic decision” and the very future of Scotland depends on their verdict.
Speaking at the conclusion of 2012, Scottish Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said in a press release on Sunday that a lot was achieved in 2012 to ensure that Scotland can hold a referendum made in Scotland that is beyond effective legal challenge.
Sturgeon said that the Edinburgh Agreement confirms there will be an open and democratic process to allow the people of Scotland to decide whether Scotland will be “an independent nation.”
After the siginig of the Edinburgh Agreement, there were heated debates on “what and how” for Scotland independence, including a sovereign Scotland state’s North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) membership, European Union (EU) membership, foreign affairs, defence and security, as well as tax, revenue and currency policies among others.
Later the same week after the Edinburgh Agreement was signed, the SNP voted narrowly, 426 to 332, that an independent Scotland would remain in NATO.
Salmond insisted the long-term consistency in SNP policy should be opposition to nuclear weapons and the best way to remove Trident from Scotland, claiming that “An independent Scotland would not have possession of or allow nuclear weapons in Scottish territory.”
He also noted that it is perfectly feasible for Scotland to be one of the NATO non-nuclear countries “but still engage in collective defence for friends and allies.”
It is projected that Scottish armed forces would comprise 15,000 regular and 5,000 reserve personnel operating under a joint forces headquarters based at Faslane, local media reported.
However, those who are opposed to the policy said if the party voted to back NATO in an independent Scotland then it would not get rid of Trident nuclear weapons from Scottish shores.
On EU membership, the SNP said Scotland would remain in the EU following a Yes vote in its independence referendum in 2014, while negotiations on details are needed.
However, the European Commission (EC) reiterated that EU membership would no longer apply to any territory within its boundaries which became independent after leaving a larger member state, which indicates Scotland has to reapply for EU membership after independence.
Those campaigning in favor of Scotland’s independence had already said they want to keep the Queen as the head of state and Scotland remaining within the Commonwealth, retain the pound until it is in Scotland’s “economic interests” to join the euro.
However, British Chancellor George Osborne raised the prospect of an independent Scotland being forced to give up the pound as its currency, indicating that Scotland could be forced to join the euro if it voted to leave the UK.
The work on transferring the legal powers to stage the referendum has begun in Scotland. A so-called Section 30 order which amends the Scotland Act that set up the Scottish parliament in 1999 will be passed by the House of Commons and agreed by February 2013 by the Privy Council.
In spring 2013, the Scottish government is expected to table a referendum bill, setting out the question, the size of the electorate, and how much the “yes” and “no” campaigns can spend.
The bill is timetabled to get royal assent in November 2013, when the Scottish government will also publish a white paper detailing its “prospectus for independence” and setting out the SNP’s vision for an independent Scotland.
Sturgeon confirmed the next steps in the process, which will continue early in the new year, with the introduction of legislation for debate in the Scottish Parliament on Scotland’s referendum, building up to the publication of a white paper on an independent Scotland in November.
“Early in the new year, I will introduce legislation for consideration by the Scottish Parliament, both on the main referendum bill that will set out how Scotland’s referendum will be run, as well as the bill that will allow the Parliament to extend the vote to all 16 and 17 year olds in Scotland,” she said.
“The Edinburgh Agreement means this will truly be a referendum designed and delivered by the Scottish Parliament,” she claimed, adding that “Over the coming months, in the build up to the white paper being published in November 2013, this government will set out the positive case for independence through a range of papers, speeches and events.”
In June 2014, the final 16 week referendum campaign leading up to a referendum expected to be held in October would be due to start, when both pro-independence and pro-UK campaigns will intensify, with millions of pounds being spent on television broadcasts, advertising and rallies.
“The outcome of the vote will be respected by both the UK and Scottish governments — both of which have pledged to work in the best interests of the people of Scotland and the rest of the UK, whatever the result,” she added.
Sturgeon also made it clear that the Edinburgh Agreement will ensure that the people of Scotland will make the biggest decision in the “once-in-a-generation” referendum in Scotland.
At present, around a third of Scotland’s 4 million voters believe that Scotland should leave the UK and become independent, ending the 305-year-old political union with England, believing Scotland’s economy, its social policies and its creativity would flourish if it had much greater autonomy.
A majority of Scots disagree, believing Scotland is more secure within the UK, but many want the Scottish parliament to have greater financial and legal powers.
The Scottish and English crowns were unified in 1603 when King James VI of Scotland became overall monarch of the British isles, with the union was cemented in 1707 by Scotland and England’s political union. Scotland’s economy strengthened in the 1800s, and a Scottish parliament was reestablished in 1999 in Edinburgh with wide-ranging policy making and legal powers but dependent on a direct grant from London.
Founded in 1934, the pro-independence SNP won elections in 2007 and in May 2011, Salmond and the SNP unexpectedly won an historic landslide victory, giving the nationalists majority control of the Scottish parliament, enabling the first minister to demand the independence referendum.