This paper sets out the Scottish Government's view that people who live in Scotland have the right to choose how they should be governed and to decide if Scotland should become an independent country. It is the second in the Building a New Scotland' series, focusing on independence.
This is the second paper in the Building a New Scotland series, which is intended to give the people of Scotland the information required to make an informed choice on our future.
This paper sets out the Scottish Government's view, and the evidence supporting it, that independence is the only realistic way to renew Scotland's democratic institutions, respect the voice of the people of Scotland, and secure Scotland's democratic future. The paper rests on the fundamental belief that decisions about Scotland are best made by the people who live in Scotland through our own, independent parliament. It presents evidence to show that the tradition and practice of parliamentary sovereignty as exercised by the UK Government and the Westminster Parliament is eroding and constraining Scotland's democracy, and undermining a devolution settlement that is already too limited to enable Scotland to fully address the challenges of the future.
The United Kingdom - at least until now - has been considered a voluntary union of countries. Scotland is a nation, not a region of a unitary state. In line with the principle of self-determination, therefore, the people of Scotland have the right to determine our own future - in the words of the Claim of Right for Scotland, to choose the form of government best suited to our needs, including whether or not to become an independent country.
However, the UK constitutional system is based on the unlimited sovereignty of the Westminster Parliament.
As a result, there is a clear misalignment between the reality of Scotland as a nation and a Westminster system which claims the right to make decisions for Scotland whatever the views of the people who live here.
Compounding this misalignment is the democratic deficit that Scotland all too often experiences.
UK governments are often elected with a small proportion of the vote in Scotland. Features of the UK system, such as the unelected House of Lords and the First Past the Post voting system for UK general elections, add to the democratic deficit.
Devolution has addressed aspects of this democratic deficit by giving Scotland a range of powers over domestic policy issues. However, since the EU referendum in 2016, this paper shows that the assertions of Westminster authority have become more pronounced. Devolution is being weakened - arguably deliberately - by the actions and decisions of the Westminster Government, for example, the passing of legislation on devolved matters without the consent of the Scottish Parliament and the constraining of devolved powers in key areas.
In this paper we present evidence to show how significant decisions made at Westminster recently - for example, on Brexit, energy, social security and immigration - are having detrimental effects on Scotland. There are no constitutional safeguards for the Scottish Parliament or democratic mechanisms that can be exercised by the people of Scotland to prevent these or further damaging decisions. Indeed, the intention of the current UK Government to pass legislation in breach of international law even calls into question its willingness to respect the democratic, rules-based, international order.
Pledges of more devolution - even if the intention to deliver was in any way credible - would not resolve the democratic deficit because ultimate power would be retained by Westminster.
In any event, no UK government of any party has ever shown the appetite for the fundamental reform required to provide effective and guaranteed self-government for Scotland within the UK.
The Scottish Government is committed to respecting, protecting and strengthening Scotland's democracy. The choice that would secure Scotland's democratic future, where decisions about Scotland are taken by the people of Scotland through our democratically elected and accountable Scottish Parliament, is independence.