As with the content of the 2013 Act I suspect most commentators will have no difficulty in agreeing the content of the draft Bill, if a further referendum is to take place. This was also the position in relation to the passage through the Scottish Parliament of the 2013 Bill. The Bill is perhaps not the rallying cry certain of the SNP delegates to their Conference may have been expecting. However that is not to say there are not some interesting matters to ponder.
The Scottish Government justifies the consultation and the need for a new referendum on the basis that the EU Brexit decision amounts to a material change in circumstances from the context of the 2104 vote. It had pledged that if a vote to leave the EU happened then the Scottish Parliament should have the right to hold an Independence Referendum. The UK Government's statements on Scotland's concerns are such that to protect Scotland, the Scottish Government is publishing the Draft Bill for consultation now so that it can proceed with an Independence Referendum if it deems that is the best way ultimately to protect Scotland's interests.
There is a recognition that a Section 30 Order under the Scotland Act 1998 was granted by the UK Government to allow the 2014 Referendum to take place. Had the Order not been granted, the Independence Referendum would have been beyond the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament and could not have happened legally. The Consultation assumes that a Section 30 Order would be sought again and would be provided by the UK Government.
Agreeing that a Section 30 Order be provided does not however reflect the current position statements by the Prime Minister and some of her Ministers so there may be some interesting discussions ahead.
The question to be asked would be the same as was asked in 2014 namely " Should Scotland be an independent country?" The date of the referendum remains blank!
The franchise would be similar to the 2014 Referendum covering those who are resident in Scotland, including 16 and 17 year olds who already have the right to vote in Scottish elections, and EU citizens. In accordance with current practice, convicted prisoners will not have the right to vote.
Of the technical provisions perhaps the most interesting are those tightening up verification of postal voting and counting officers "not knowingly" appointing people who have been involved in campaigning to act as polling or count staff.
This Consultation is very much a technical beginning to any future Independence Referendum campaign. It is not suggesting anything most election experts would not find perfectly acceptable. Most of those involved on both sides of the campaign agreed with the Electoral Commission that so far as the procedures were concerned, the 2014 Independence Referendum was an open and fairly run voting process. You have until the 11th January 2017 to make up your own mind and send in any comments.
The big conundrum is does this Consultation mean another Independence Referendum is inevitable? It will take a braver person than me to make any prediction on that question.