Six-and-a-half years since Scots went to the polls to decide whether to go independent or stay part of the UK, and nearly five years since the EU referendum, the country’s constitutional future remains in a state of flux.

With Scotland’s place in or out of the UK, and all that that might mean for future relations between Scotland and the wider world, still up in the air, this week we’re asking the seven candidates standing in the Dumbarton constituency in the May 6 Holyrood election to set out their position on the topic which seems likely to be more of a deciding factor in how Scots vote next month than any other.

In the final instalment in our four-part series, next week we will again be asking the Helensburgh and Lomond area’s seven Holyrood hopefuls to look to the future – this time by explaining their, and their party’s, priorities for the education of Scotland’s young people.

Email editorial@helensburgh advertiser.co.uk with your priorities, and your views on the candidates’ thoughts.

READ MORE: Dumbarton candidates have their say on health

* * * * * * * * * *

Jackie Baillie - Scottish Labour Party

Helensburgh Advertiser: Jackie BaillieJackie Baillie

FAMILIES, our local communities and the country have been devastated by the effects of Covid-19.

Many people have lost loved ones. Some have lost their livelihoods. Businesses have been forced to close, and our young people have had their future prospects curtailed. Many are worried about losing their jobs when furlough ends.

For all of those reasons our focus for the next parliament must be on Scotland’s recovery – for jobs and the economy, for the NHS to catch up on cancer treatment and waiting times, for education to provide hope for our young people, for our communities to rebuild, and tackling the climate emergency.

For all of those reasons Scottish Labour will not support an independence referendum within the next five years.

We are against independence, but at a time like this we believe unity, not division, is more important to get the country back on its feet.

The impact of this virus will be felt for years to come. Let’s move on from old arguments and choose to focus on jobs, the NHS, education – our communities need these to be our priorities.

READ MORE: Local candidates have their say on climate emergency

* * * * * * * *

Maurice Corry - Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party

Helensburgh Advertiser: Maurice CorryMaurice Corry

SCOTLAND has been facing constitutional issues now for some time and, as time goes on these become more divisive and damaging to the day-to-day running of Scotland.

We were told in 2014 it was a “once in a lifetime” referendum. But ever since, the SNP has used numerous excuses in an attempt to get another.

At no point have pro-independence parties gained more than 50 per cent of the vote, so there has been no demonstration that sufficient support is there for another.

Brexit has been a main contributing factor in these renewed calls for another independence referendum. One fact that is rarely pointed out is that had Scotland voted for independence in 2014, Scotland would have left the EU without a deal as it is the UK that was a member.

This would have plunged Scotland into a complete crisis, having left both unions and our biggest trading market at the same time.

Scotland doesn’t need more division, it needs stability. Scotland doesn’t need to leave our largest trading partner to solve Brexit: it needs to work together with our partners in the UK and progress forward within.

READ MORE: Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross talks to the Advertiser

* * * * * * * *

Andy Foxall - Scottish Liberal Democrats

Helensburgh Advertiser: Andy FoxallAndy Foxall

THE Scottish Liberal Democrats support a federal United Kingdom.

We reject the idea that the only choice is between independence and the status quo.

Scottish Liberal Democrats were central to the foundation of the Scottish Parliament and more powers for Holyrood. Now we want to go further with the declaration of a federal United Kingdom.

This will involve fair votes for the whole country, a UK Council of Ministers, a reformed House of Lords, a written constitution, and power devolved across the nations and regions of the UK.

A federal union will meet the challenges of the 21st century without the tension, inequality and sense of crisis that is inevitable if we are dominated by independence arguments and nationalism of any kind.

Progressive change is far better than a prolonged and disruptive referendum which will split the country and take up energy that should be focussed on recovery from the pandemic.

Vote Liberal Democrats with your regional vote in West Scotland, and vote for me to be your MSP in Dumbarton to put recovery first.

READ MORE: Scottish Liberal Democrats leader Willie Rennie talks to the Advertiser

* * * * * * * *

Toni Giugliano - Scottish National Party

Helensburgh Advertiser: Toni GiuglianoToni Giugliano

SCOTLAND is one of the wealthiest countries in the world.

Our life sciences sector is one of the biggest in Europe. Scotland’s digital economy is creating around 13,000 highly paid jobs per year. Our digital industry is flourishing.

We possess 25 per cent of Europe’s offshore wind resources and 25 per cent of its tidal-energy resources. We have a skilled workforce and world class universities.

And before Westminster harmed our economy with Brexit, Scotland exported £17,456 of goods per head, more than twice the UK’s goods exports of only £8,648 per head.

The question, then, is: who should be in charge of Scotland’s future as we recover from Covid? Boris Johnson said “a pound spent in Croydon is worth more than a pound spent in Strathclyde”. Westminster can’t be trusted to protect Scotland’s interests.

Should Holyrood simply exist to mitigate reckless policies like the bedroom tax? It’s time to take control of our vast resources and build a fairer, greener Scotland for all.

With independence we’ll always get the governments we vote for. On May 6, make it #BothVotesSNP.

READ MORE: SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon talks to the Advertiser

* * * * * * * *

James Morrison - Independent

Helensburgh Advertiser: James MorrisonJames Morrison

IF the people of Scotland want an Indyref2 vote, then OK. But what will the Scottish Government do if the vote is No? What if the answer is Yes?

How about doing something radical like actually dealing with the real problems in Scotland?

The policy of the Scottish Government should be to enrich the living standards for everyone – where everyone has access to safe and secure accommodation, good medical care, debt-free education, a safe retirement, and a level of income that takes them out of poverty.

The Scottish Government’s focus should be on jobs and poverty, and not independence floated out with a cascade of future broken promises.

Give every adult a living income of £18,000 and every child £5,000. Remove poverty or fear of poverty.

More than one in four (260,000) of Scotland’s children are officially recognised as living in poverty, with 68 per cent of children in poverty living in working households.

Ten pounds a week doesn’t lift you out of poverty, it only shows that you are in poverty. Make Scotland Work.

READ MOREOpinion - 'We all must use the power of our words very carefully'

* * * * * * * *

Andrew Muir - Independent

Helensburgh Advertiser: Andrew MuirAndrew Muir

IN 2014, I was a member of the Scottish National Party. I went on marches, and I voted Yes in the independence referendum.

However later, when I completed a 2,000-word questionnaire and asked to be a SNP candidate, I was told I was not allowed without being given a reason.

Instead I noted that the candidates who were selected were relatives of members of the party.

After being removed from the party for standing against their preferred candidate, I asked to rejoin two years later, but my request was refused.

Now I don’t care for the SNP much at all. They don’t respect the result of the independence referendum, or of the EU referendum two years later.

In fact if the Scottish and UK parliaments hadn’t wasted all their energies on trying to stop Brexit, we may have better dealt with Covid.

I have since been banned from several SNP councillors’ surgeries, and have been blocked from following their Twitter accounts. I have had little dialogue with Toni Giugliano so far.

Our Sheriff Courts and Crown Office are not fit for purpose and I fear an independent country would be corrupt. Another generational referendum 25 years from 2014 is appropriate.

READ MORE: Letters to the Advertiser: April 22, 2021

* * * * * * * *

Jonathan Rainey - Scottish Libertarian Party

Helensburgh Advertiser: Jonathan RaineyJonathan Rainey

IT is greatly important that a new constitution be written to protect our basic freedoms and liberties from government overreach (similar to how the original Constitution of the USA was written in the late 1780s and ratified in 1791 – albeit with new amendments to prevent the mistakes that occurred with the first), especially in an independent Scotland.

The current constitution we have in the UK is an unwritten one and does not work in preventing the government from getting into our lives too much.

The oaths our MSPs take need to reflect a pledge of allegiance to protect us, not the Royal Family.

This is why much of Section 84 of the Scotland Act 1998 needs to be amended to greatly reflect the devolution that Scotland so deserves to be granted.

One solution would be to remove subsection 7 of the said Act and then amend subsection 4(a) to reflect the source of a new Scottish Oath of Allegiance.

More in next week's Advertiser