The Scottish Parliament [official website] unanimously approved a bill [legislative materials] on Thursday to hold a Scottish independence referendum. The bill outlines the referendum rules [text, PDF]. Both independence opponents and supporters in parliament supported the bill, which will permit a 16-week campaign period and impose financial limits on campaigners to create a level playing field. The vote will be overseen by the Electoral Commission [official website] and will be directed by a chief counting officer. The UK government granted temporary powers to the Scottish Parliament to hold the legal referendum under Section 30 of the 1998 Scotland Act [text]. Separate legislation granting 16- and 17-year-olds referendum voting privileges has already been passed. The referendum bill passed prior to the Scottish National Party's [official website] administration upcoming publication of a white paper on November 26 outlining the reasons for independence. On September 18, 2014, Scottish voters will be asked whether Scotland should become an independent country.
The recent push for a referendum regarding Scotland's independence has marked a turning point [JURIST report] in the decades-long negotiations between Scotland and the UK. If Scotland became independent it would have to reapply for European Union (EU) [official website] membership, according to a report released [JURIST report] in February by the HM Treasury [official website], the UK's economic and finance ministry. Last October British Prime Minister David Cameron and Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond [official websites] formally agreed to hold the referendum [JURIST report] regarding the independence of Scotland, potentially ending the union between the two nations in place since the Union with England Act of 1707 [text]. Drafts of the referendum differed considerably in terms and direction from the original [JURIST report], presented in February 2010.