SCOTLAND could have a series of referendums after independence to decide on “more controversial” issues such as retaining the monarchy, a minister has suggested.

Independence Minister Jamie ­Hepburn (below) said the move would ­ensure the power to decide the ­constitution would be “in the hands of the people”.

He made the comments during a packed-out fringe event at the SNP conference last week, examining what the constitution of the country would look like after leaving the UK.

The National: The minister talked to the BBC this morning

In June, First Minister Humza Yousaf set out plans to introduce a written constitution for Scotland ­after independence in the fourth ­paper published in the Building a New Scotland series.

It set out proposals for an interim constitution and stated it would be for the people in Scotland to decide on a permanent constitution “through a Constitutional Convention, their elected Scottish Parliament and a ­referendum on its adoption”.

Speaking at the event, hosted by the Institute for Government and UK in a Changing Europe, Hepburn was quizzed on how much would be included in the final referendum on the adoption of the constitution – and what would happen if there would be potentially multiple referendums on issues such as the head of state and the EU.

Constitution Secretary Angus ­Robertson has previously suggested a vote for independence would also count as a vote to rejoin the EU.

Hepburn said: “We made that ­explicitly clear it would be perfectly possible for a convention to say look here’s the things that everyone can agree with, that probably falls into the space of some of the things we have been talking about in terms of fundamental rights, notwithstanding the point that will itself be subject to debate.

“The things that could be felt to be a bit more controversial – yeah, OK, we could put them to a separate referendum.

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“I see nothing wrong with that – it should be in the hands of the people, they should get to determine this.”

Hepburn also told delegates there was a “real and genuine” ­commitment to involve people in drawing up the constitution.

“This can’t be a process that’s done by some wise heads in a room somewhere, it has to involve the people.

“That is a real and genuine ­commitment, for our interim ­constitution, it will be done on the basis of ­widespread consultation and then in the longer term, we would make sure we would convene a ­constitutional convention, representative of the people, to look at the big issues, come back, lay out what they think the constitution should look like. There is an opportunity for them – they can actually shape the country … I think that is really important.”

However, he was challenged on the process by writer, broadcaster and National columnist Lesley Riddoch, who argued Scotland should look to the example of places like Ireland which used Citizens’ Assemblies to ­resolve contentious issues such as abortion and equal marriage.

She told him: “They had the ­experts where they should be, not on the stage – giving evidence to an ­intelligent cross-section of the ­population. And that’s how Ireland has revolutionised itself.

“What is Scotland doing? With all due respect, you are writing up something – I know it is an interim one what we should have been doing from the beginning is just changing the terms of trade in Scotland.

“It’s all top-down here, it’s all the great and the good that know best – this is the opportunity still to doof this one up and change it, as that is what changes people’s minds. The constitution at the end fine, but the process – 200%.”

There were a series of contributions from the floor during the discussion, including from SNP MP Joanna Cherry, whose call to reaffirm a commitment to set up a constitutional convention to take forward independence negotiations with the UK Government was backed by conference.

She said: “I think the people should be involved in drawing up the interim constitution and whether they are or not, it has got to have a sunset clause in it and just last for a short period before it is replaced by something more final and definitely drawn up by the people.”

However, Jess Sargeant, ­associate director of the Institute for ­Government, cautioned that at the stage of leaving the UK, the Scottish Government would be “very busy” such as with the UK Government and EU, or setting up public bodies and new departments.

“So I think there is also a need to think about processing capacity here, and I think there is a slight risk if you try and do everything at once that you might overpromise and ­underdeliver,” she said.

“Fundamentally, particularly in terms of the citizen engagement point, the thing you can do which is almost most damaging to public trust is promising the people you will ­involve them at X stage and then not doing that properly.

“So I think there is an argument for the Scottish Government’s proposal for an interim constitution to provide stability in the immediate future, to allow the process of independence to be fully delivered – before then going back to the question of what an independent Scotland should look like in terms of local government, in terms of the role of the monarchy – all of these really important things which need proper consideration and attention.

“If you try to do them all at once, that might end up not delivering what you might be hoping to.”

One delegate said a constitutional convention backed by the people would be needed, if the SNP won a ­majority of seats in a ­General ­Election, to make sure the ­position shifted from the Westminster ­government versus the SNP to the “Westminster ­government versus the people of ­Scotland for democracy”.

“That is a massive shift constitutionally,” he added.

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Another delegate suggested ­getting people to join in the ­discussion around the constitution of an ­independent Scotland should get under way now.

“I know that’s hard as it is ­asking people to be engaged who aren’t there yet … it might be some of [those ­anti-independence] would engage as they would want to make sure belt and braces they didn’t get something they absolutely couldn’t live with,” she said.

“So there is a population out there we can start talking and engaging with now.”

To applause, she said that starting now can “help us on that journey to independence in a way that waiting until after a vote won’t”.

Responding to the criticisms, ­Hepburn said it was not a “top-down” process being proposed and there is “legitimacy” in an ­elected ­government taking the lead in drafting the constitution.