Firstly, on combining legitimacy with legality, the referendum in Scotland is legal AND legitimate. This is because the United Kingdom and Scotland agreed to hold the referendum and created the Edinburgh Agreement. “This Agreement between both sides is to be praised as it put down a solid legal framework”, states Bruno Kaufmann, board member of Democracy International, who observed the referendum process in Scotland.
Secondly, concerning the formation of a new state, independence referendums bear questions on how to deal with issues such as determining new boundaries, the separation of natural resources and citizenship rights. The Scottish case shows that an independent Scotland does not automatically assume the rights, obligations and powers of the predecessor. “What happens next yet is not fully clear in Scotland if the pro-independence movement wins. Still there are conflicting standpoints in Edinburgh and London on what the next steps of the independence process will be. Most importantly, with regards to separation of natural resources, Scotland still has a huge share of oil and gas reserves. In case Scotland becomes independent, both sides need to solve this point quickly to avoid conflict”, admonishes Bruno Kaufmann.
Thirdly, on the issue of fair, equal and clear referendum standards, the Scottish case represents a role model on how to implement the “Code of good practice on referendums” as set out by the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission. “Overall, everybody agrees that this referendum campaign has been a good example for other countries of how to organize a free and fair deliberation and decision-making process. Moreover, the Electoral Commission made use of the regulative approach. This ensured equality and fairness during the opinion-building and decision-making process“ concludes Bruno Kaufmann on behalf of Democracy International. The global coalition for democracy unites citizens committed to realising better forms of direct democracy from all over the world.
Democracy International’s full assessment is available in the position paper “Challenging separation. Three main points processes towards independence have in common”, available for download below.