Scottish Government proposes 2016 transition for independence

Nicola Sturgeon also outlined plans for elections to follow in May 2016.

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The Scottish Government has proposed a March 2016 transition period if the county votes for independence.

A Scottish Government paper, with a foreword from Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, outlines plans for elections to an independent parliament to follow in May of that year.

The paper sets out plans for a written constitution, to be devised by the first parliament and the public, which could outlaw "weapons of mass destruction" in Scotland.

It also describes the constitutional platform for independence, drawing on the "spirit" of the Edinburgh agreement between Prime Minister David Cameron and First Minister Alex Salmond on the legal staging of the referendum.

Political parties and representatives of "civic Scotland" would be invited to join the Scottish Government in negotiating a settlement.

Ms Sturgeon said on Tuesday: "Our proposals, set out today, would see this platform put in place immediately prior to the Scottish Parliament elections, to provide the newly-elected Scottish Government with the full range of powers it needs to develop the country.

"Today's paper provides the people of Scotland with a clear road map as to how Scotland would make the journey from a devolved system of government with the levers of power retained at Westminster, to a nation in which the powers of our national Parliament are complete and in which the people are sovereign."

Scottish politicians agreed last week on the wording of the referendum question following advice from the Electoral Commission.

The question will be: "Should Scotland be an independent country?" The date for the referendum has not been confirmed but is likely to be held in autumn 2014.

In an accompanying letter to Michael Moore, the Scottish Secretary in Mr Cameron's Cabinet, Ms Sturgeon repeated her call for talks about the process of potential independence.

She said: "There is no reason that talks on the process required to make Scotland an independent country - if the people of Scotland make that choice - cannot begin now and be conducted in the same constructive and co-operative manner that would lead to a smooth transition.

"This paper is the first of a series of publications that will inform that debate, and provides the foundation for such discussions. I would urge the UK Government to heed the call of the Electoral Commission and engage on the process required following the 2014 vote."

The UK Government has insisted there will be no pre-negotiation. The most recent poll put support for independence at 32%, while opposition stood at 47%.

Mr Moore, a Liberal Democrat MP, accused the Scottish Government of creating a distraction from substantive issues.He said: "Once again, they are devoting their energy to the picture-frame when they don't have a painting to put in it.

"We haven't even got a date for the referendum, let alone any detail on what independence would mean for people in areas like the economy, welfare, energy and financial services. People in Scotland appreciate the benefits of remaining part of the United Kingdom family and that is why they remain strongly opposed to independence.

"We have already been setting out our views in public on the issue of the post-referendum process. We will spell out further thoughts on this process in our forthcoming analysis papers, including our first paper, in February. Once this has been published, we will be happy to discuss our paper with the Scottish Government."

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