Independence: Fury over white paper launch plans

Paul Martin: 'SNP behaving like an elected dictatorship'. Picture: Gareth Easton
Paul Martin: 'SNP behaving like an elected dictatorship'. Picture: Gareth Easton
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OPPOSITION parties have reacted with fury to SNP plans to launch next week’s independence white paper at an event in Glasgow rather than at the Scottish Parliament, saying the decision not to present it first to MSPs is an “affront” to democracy.

The Scottish Government confirmed it intended a major launch for the white paper next Tuesday, as it aims to capitalise on global media interest.

The long-awaited document, expected to be more than 500 pages long, will set out the SNP government’s proposals on the economy and political choices of a new, independent state.

However, the plan for the launch triggered fury among Labour, Liberal Democrat and Conservative MSPs, who were informed of the timetabling at the weekly cross-party business bureau meeting.

SNP parliament minister Jim Fitzpatrick told MSPs of plans for a full debate next Wednesday, a day after the launch.

A Scottish Government spokesman said the white paper would be laid before parliament on Tuesday morning, before the launch. Ministers also plan to present a statement to MSPs on Tuesday afternoon, after the launch.

The SNP’s proposals are expected to be rejected later today by opposition MSPs on the business bureau, who argue that the historic nature of the white paper means it should be first revealed to parliament.

That opposition is likely to force the SNP to use its parliamentary majority to push the timetabling through.

Scottish Labour MSP Paul Martin accused the SNP of behaving “like an elected dictatorship”.

He said: “If the white paper is not presented first to the Scottish Parliament, it will be an affront to Scottish democracy and the Scottish people.

“The Scottish Government are acting with incredible arrogance. This white paper process looks more like an exercise in propaganda than serious policy-making.”

Another business bureau member, Scottish Liberal Democrat Alison McInnes MSP, said: “It’s an insult for the Scottish Government to dodge parliament on the day they launch the independence white paper.

“The white paper should properly be presented to parliament first, but knowing how fond the First Minister is of razzle-dazzle press launches, it is sadly no longer a surprise that he treats parliament with such contempt.”

However, SNP officials insist their plans do abide by parliamentary protocol.

The white paper will be officially presented to parliament through an “inspired question”, prior to the launch in Glasgow.

Explaining the plans, the Scottish Government spokesman said: ”We are offering a ministerial statement on the white paper on Tuesday afternoon.

“It’s envisaged that this would be followed by a full parliamentary debate the following day.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Parliament said: “There are still to be further discussions on next week’s business. Once those discussions have concluded, a motion will be lodged setting out next week’s proposed business.”