Second Independence Referendum Draft Bill Published

A draft Bill for a second referendum on Scottish independence has been published for consultation by the Scottish Government.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said Scots should have the ability to reconsider the issue in light of the vote for Brexit and to do so before the UK leaves the European Union (EU).

Under the proposals it is expected that Scots would be asked the same question posed in 2014: ''Should Scotland be an independent country?''

The document, published online, also sets out plans for a second poll to be decided by a simple majority as was the case two years ago when 55% of Scots voted to stay in the United Kingdom and 45% opted for independence.

The consultation also proposes the same franchise as in 2014, which would see EU citizens living in Scotland and 16 and 17-year-olds able to vote.

It states that an order similar to that drawn up by Westminster and the Scottish Parliament that allowed the 2014 vote take place ''would be sought and agreed''.

The consultation says: ``The decision on Scotland's future should be taken through a process that is beyond reproach.

''The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring that the highest standards of fairness, transparency and propriety are maintained.''

In the foreword to the consultation, Ms Sturgeon said: "The UK Government's recent statements on its approach to leaving the EU raise serious concerns for the Scottish Government.

"We face unacceptable risks to our democratic, economic and social interests and to the right of the Scottish Parliament to have its say.''

She added: "Protecting Scotland's interests is the most important job of this Government. We must have every option available to do this and it is for that reason we are now publishing the draft referendum Bill for consultation.

"In 2014, our objective was for the conduct of the referendum to meet the highest standards of fairness, transparency and propriety.

"That objective was achieved then, and remains crucial for any future referendum.

"The consultation and draft Bill propose that the approach should be broadly the same as in 2014, with some technical adjustments to reflect recent changes in elections law and procedures such as individual registration.

"As in 2014, the proposed franchise for the referendum will match that for Scottish Parliament elections.

"That will mean that two important groups of people would have a voice that was denied to them in the recent referendum on EU membership: 16 and 17-year-olds and citizens of EU countries who have made Scotland their home.''

Ms Sturgeon, who is due to meet Prime Minister Theresa May in London on Monday, has said efforts to protect Scotland's place in Europe would intensify over the coming weeks in light of a majority of Scots voting to remain in June's EU referendum.

The First Minister has said she will put forward specific proposals aimed at keeping Scotland in the single market even if the rest of the UK leaves, as well as for ''substantial additional powers'' for Holyrood as part of the UK's Article 50 negotiations, including over international deals with other nations and immigration.

But she has stressed that the Scottish Parliament must be able to consider the option of an independence referendum "if it becomes clear that it is the best or only way of safeguarding Scotland's interests''.

The consultation says the Government will reach a conclusion on whether to ask the Scottish Parliament to approve a Bill "in the light of developments over the coming months''.

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