Edinburgh trying to regain political initiative while Westminster accepts transfer of referendum powers

Alex Salmond proposes to include the rights to education and housing in the future Constitution of Scotland · Nicola Sturgeon calls for a “groundwork” between the Scottish and British governments in order to minimise uncertainty in the event of secession

The Scottish government is unveiling a set of proposals aimed at convincing people about the benefits of independence. The ideas are being voiced while the British Parliament is debating the transfer of referendum powers to Edinburgh, a step needed so that Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond (left picture; image by Saül Gordillo) can call a vote on independence next year. The transfer has already been agreed between Salmond and the British Primer Minister David Cameron, so the approval by the Parliament is only a formality.

The Scottish government tries to regain the initiative in the independence debate by drafting several rights that could be included in a future Scottish Constitution and by reassuring that Scotland will remain inside the European Union.

During the last months, the idea of having Scotland outside the EU and having to reapply for membership had gained momentum. The president of the European Commission, José Manuel Durao Barroso, said last December that any new independent state separating from a EU member should have "to apply to the European membership according to the rules".

Edinburgh is now counterattacking by saying that, in any case, there will be a period of negotiation between Scotland and the EU in the event that Scots choose independence next year. Scottish Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has written that the British and the Scottish governments "must do the groundwork" so that, if "yes" wins, "both governments are in a position to work together constructively in the best interests of the people of Scotland and the rest of the UK". The aim of this "groundwork" would be to minimise any uncertainty in the event of secession - and it is obvious that, in the eyes of many people, the EU issue is the biggest uncertainty that can be.

This is coincidental with the most recent words by Salmond on some rights that could be included in the Constitution of Scotland. According to The Herald, Scottish FM considers that a Constitution "protecting the citizens" of Scotland could include the right to education and the "right of every Scottish family to have a home". These are rights, Salmond argued, that the UK cannot protect at the same level since it does not have a written Constitution. A provision on under which circumstances should Scotland go to war could also be included into the Constitution, he said.