Alex Salmond unveils referendum bill in legislative programme
ALEX SALMOND cleared the parliamentary path for the forthcoming independence referendum campaign as he unveiled his list of bills for the coming year on the first day of the Scottish Parliament’s new term on Tuesday.
The First Minister announced he intended to table legislation early next year to hold the referendum, saying he expected to “conclude” talks with Prime Minister David Cameron at the end of this month on the arrangements.
Holding up agreement is the continuing impasse over whether there should be just one straight question on independence, as the pro-Union camp is urging, or a second question proposing more devolution.
Downing Street said last night that discussions on the referendum should be held first with Scottish Secretary Michael Moore. Meanwhile, Alastair Darling, who is leading the pro-
Union Better Together campaign, accused the SNP government of being the “roadblock to the independence referendum”.
Mr Salmond repeated yesterday that he would wait for a public consultation on the vote to be published next month, saying that the bill would give people “the choice of independence: responsibility for ourselves as a nation, a voice in the world, and government that reflects the people’s priorities and Scottish values”.
As well as the Referendum Bill, Mr Salmond confirmed the Scottish Government is to bring forward legislation to legalise same-sex marriage, insisting that the plans would “strike a balance” between gay people wanting to get married and faith groups who, he said, would not be compelled to undertake such ceremonies.
Other new laws include a new Children and Young People Bill which will set in statute services which should be available to children and young people, and secure the right to a minimum 600 hours free early learning and childcare provision for three and four-year-olds.
There will also be moves to bring into force the parliament’s new power over stamp duty and landfill tax which are due to be transferred from Westminster to Holyrood in 2015, following the passing of the UK government’s Scotland Act.
In the wake of claims too many contracts for the new Forth Road Bridge were going abroad, a new bill which will take “community benefit” into account will be proposed.
Ministers also intend to legislate to bring the NHS and social care services under one umbrella. Other legislation which has already been announced – including controversial plans to bring in a new Aquaculture Bill setting up new regulations on salmon farmers – will be put before parliament later in the year.
Mr Salmond claimed the package of bills was “historic” as he addressed MSPs yesterday. The legislation was designed, he said, to give “independence” to young people, families and the elderly.
Opposition parties claimed the government had taken its eye off its existing responsibilities to focus on independence.
Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont said: “What we saw today was a tired First Minister in charge of a flagging government who no longer has anything to offer the people of Scotland other than a referendum he continues to dither over.
“Alex Salmond is the first First Minister to have a majority and could re-shape Scotland for the better but instead seems to glory in his own perceived powerlessness.”
Mr Darling added: “The Scottish Government is now the roadblock to an independence referendum. We can all see through talk of a second question. It is time they got on with it.”
• Referendum Bill, to allow an independence referendum to take place in 2014
• Marriage and Civil Partnership Bill, legalising gay marriage
• Procurement Reform Bill, introducing “community benefit clauses”
• Better Regulation Bill, setting national standards on planning and environment laws
• Land and Buildings Transaction Tax Bill
• Landfill Tax Bill
• Adult Health and Social Care Integration Bill
• Children and Young People Bill
• Post-16 Education Reform Bill
• Forth Estuary Transport Authority Bill
• Victims and Witnesses Bill
• Tribunals Bill
• Criminal Justice Bill
• Bankruptcy Bill
• Budget Bill
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 18 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 9 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North east