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Scotland does not have legal right to hold independence referendum: report

The Scottish Affairs Committee [official website] on Tuesday released a report [materials] finding that the Scottish Parliament does not have the legal right to hold a binding independence referendum on separation from the UK, expressly stating that only the Scottish people could make such a decision through a referendum. The House of Commons determined that Scotland did not present any legal justification for the competence of Holyrood to set up a referendum, noting that "[g]iven that it is clear that the result of a referendum will decide Scotland's position, in or out of the Union, it must have an unchallengeable legal and moral basis. It cannot be described as simply 'advisory.'" The Committee made it clear that if Scotland would proceed with the referendum on a "dubious legal basis" it would be challenged in the courts, which would unnecessary delay the process, increasing the uncertainty of the country's future. The Committee recommended in the report that the UK and Scottish government should attempt to reach an agreement under Section 30 of the Scotland Act 1998 [text] to allow the Scottish government to hold a referendum.

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond [official website] had previously proposed [JURIST report] a draft independence referendum bill that would allow the country more autonomy. He unveiled a proposal [consultation paper, PDF; press release] in 2010 that, if passed, would allow Scottish voters to choose whether the country should gain more independence or not. The draft included several areas in which Scotland would cut ties with the UK such as foreign affairs, defense, monetary policy and currency. It also asked further of whether Scotland should become an independent state with the possibility of membership in the European Union, while retaining the queen as the head of state.

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