Salmond unveils Alba Party’s plans for referendum Bill at Holyrood

If passed, a referendum would be held to consult the people of Scotland on whether Holyrood should be able to legislate on independence.

Alex Salmond’s Alba party proposes referendum on extending Scottish Parliament’s powers Getty Images

Alex Salmond’s Alba party will propose holding a referendum on whether the powers of the Scottish Parliament should be extended to include the power to legislate for and negotiate independence.

The party’s Holyrood leader and former SNP leadership candidate Ash Regan will introduce a bill to “consult the people of Scotland” ten years on from the 2014 independence referendum.

While the SNP has won every election in Scotland since then, demands for another ballot on leaving the UK have been rejected by successive Conservative prime ministers.

The Supreme Court ruled last year that the Scottish Government cannot hold a second independence vote without Westminster’s approval.

But Alba argues that a referendum on whether Holyrood should be given more powers would be lawful.

The referendum would ask: “Should the Scottish Parliament have the power to negotiate and legislate for Scottish independence?”

If passed it would not give Holyrood more powers as that is reserved to Westminster but could show that Scots are in favour of the idea.

Stock image of Holyrood, the Scottish Parliament.
The UK Government has rejected the idea of more powers for the Scottish Parliament.

Salmond said the bill is what he would have put forward had then-prime minister David Cameron refused a Section 30 referendum in 2014.

“If you want to end a London veto over Scottish sovereignty then you have to make it clear that you are not prepared to take no for an answer,” the former First Minister said.

“The way to assert the sovereignty of the Scottish people is to ask the people the question on whether their own parliament should have the powers to determine our future.”

Alba said the new referendum would “break through the constitutional logjam on independence”.

Rega, Alba sole MSP, said the bill could offer a path forward amid a lack of progress on leaving the union.

“There is no reason why the independence movement should make no progress in the meantime,” she said.

The Edinburgh Eastern MSP said it was still her party’s policy that “each and every election Scotland should be offered the choice of voting for a mandate to negotiate independence”.

The SNP has previously said it will immediately try to begin independence negotiations with the UK Government if it wins a majority of the Scottish seats at the next UK general election.

First Minister Humza Yousaf said “page one, line one” of the party’s manifesto would make clear that a vote for the SNP is a vote for independence.

The SNP said it would consider any member’s bill that comes forward but added there are “no shortcuts to independence”.

“That’s why the SNP is focused on winning the argument and building the case amongst the people of Scotland, and support for independence continues to be around 50% or higher,” a spokesperson said.

“The Scottish Government is putting in the essential hard work needed by updating its independence prospectus with detailed papers on Europe, the economy, migration and citizenship, among others, to show how Scotland can emulate the success of European countries that are like Scotland in terms of building a stronger economy and fairer society.

“The SNP had a lengthy and inclusive debate on independence strategy at our autumn conference, and the General Election is the next opportunity for people in Scotland to make their voice heard, which is why page one, line one of the SNP manifesto will read ‘vote SNP for Scotland to become an independent country’.”

‘Not the time for distracting constitutional change’

The UK Government dismissed Alba’s plan.

A spokesperson said: “People in Scotland want both their governments to be concentrating on the issues that matter most to them, like growing our economy, halving inflation and improving public services. 

“We want to work constructively with the Scottish Government to tackle our shared challenges because that is what families and businesses in Scotland expect. 

“This is not the time to be talking about distracting constitutional change.”

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