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White paper brings clarity but key questions remain, says Law Society

26 November 2013 | tagged News release

The Law Society of Scotland has today, 26 November, welcomed the Scottish Government's white paper Scotland's Future - your guide to an independent Scotland but highlighted that key questions still need to be answered by both sides of the debate.

Currency

The Law Society has previously called for the Scottish Government to set out contingency plans if the UK Government does not agree to a formal sterling currency union. 

Bruce Beveridge, President of the Law Society of Scotland, said: "Given the different positions being taken by the UK and Scottish Governments, it is difficult to understand the most likely currency arrangements if the Scottish people were to vote for independence next year. It is hard to have a proper debate against a background of uncertainty on such an important issue as this.

"Both governments have a responsibility to address that uncertainty. The Scottish Government should be setting out its contingency plans if its preference on currency cannot be achieved. Equally, the UK Government needs to be clearer on why it could or would not support such a shared currency arrangement." 

EU membership 

The Law Society has previously called for both the Scottish and UK Governments to publish Law Officer's legal advice regarding Scotland's membership of the EU, to help provide clarity for voters. 

Bruce Beveridge said: "The white paper goes a long way to set out what the Scottish Government believes is the route to EU membership, which is welcome. 

"The issue of Scotland's EU membership is a complex issue, on which there is more than one view. 

"EU membership would be central to the legal status, economic prosperity and international standing of an independent Scotland, in the event of a 'yes' vote. 

"Ultimately, responsible and respectful political discussion between the EU, UK and Scotland will be the key factor in determining whether or not Scotland, in the event of independence, becomes a member of the European Union." 

A 'no' vote 

The Law Society has previously called on the main political parties which oppose independence to clearly set out the implications of a 'no' vote in the referendum next September. 

Bruce Beveridge said: "Whilst the Scottish Government's white paper may not have provided all the information which we and others were looking for, it is still a detailed document which will add greatly to the debate.  

"Those who oppose Scottish independence need to present their own visions for Scotland and make clear what a no vote next September really means. In particular, the pro-UK parties need to decide what further devolution they would support and agree a process and timescale for reaching and delivering on a consensus." 

Parliamentary reform 

The Law Society has previously called on the Scottish Government to detail the size and workings of a Scottish Parliament in an independent Scotland and whether they would propose the setting up of a second chamber. 

Bruce Beveridge said: "We are interested to note that the Scottish Government doesn't propose increasing the size or altering the structure of the Scottish Parliament. 

"It is imperative that any new constitution ensures sufficient checks and balances exist in the legislative process." 

Supreme Court 

The Law Society has previously called on Scottish Government to outline what powers a Supreme Court would have in an independent Scotland. 

Bruce Beveridge said: "One of the most important questions for an independent Scotland is how its courts and justice system would be structured. 

"It's helpful to have confirmation that the existing Inner House of the Court of Session and the High Court, sitting as a Court of Appeal, will become Scotland's Supreme Court in the event of independence. 

"However, the creation of a Scottish Supreme Court is more than just a naming exercise. 

"We think that it would be useful for the Scottish Government to provide further information on what powers a Scottish Supreme Court would possess, particularly whether the court would be able to strike down legislation." 

ENDS                                                                                        26 NOVEMBER 2013

Notes to editor 

The Law Society will be looking closely at the considerable amount of information contained within the white paper and will be providing a detailed written response to the Scottish Government in due course.

The Law Society of Scotland's paper Scotland's Constitutional Future, views, opinions and questions aims to inform and add value to the current discussion on independence and constitutional reform. The accompanying press release can be viewed here.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION: Journalists can contact Julia Brown on 0131 476 8204 or Suzy Powell on 0131 226 8884. For the out of hours service please call 0131 226 7411.

Email: juliabrown@lawscot.org.uk/ suzypowell@lawscot.org.uk

26 November 2013

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