Falkirk Council’s SNP Group has released details of its submissio to the Con / Dem Westminster Government’s consultation on the issue of the proposed referendum on Scottish independence and given a major warning to the London politicians not to interfere
Date: 27 January 2012
1 Melville Crescent
Scotland’s Constitutional Future
I enclose below a submission on behalf of the SNP Group of Falkirk Council to the above consultation exercise being conducted by the Westminster Government in duplication to that already planned by the Scottish Government.
Before answering the specific questions I would question the accuracy of the heading of this consultation exercise, in particular the second part which reads “Consultation on Facilitating a legal, fair and decisive Referendum on whether Scotland should leave the United Kingdom”.
It is my understanding that it is the Union of the Parliaments of 1707 that Scotland wishes to renegotiate and not the 1603 Union of the Crowns which brought about the “United Kingdom”. I would therefore contest that your consultation exercise is flawed from the very beginning.
Q 1 What are your views in using the order making power provided in the Scotland Act 1998 to allow the Scottish Parliament to legislate for a Legal Referendum in the act of the Scottish Parliament ?
Answer 1 As Paul McBride QC rightly pointed out on Radio Scotland, the important principle relating to Scottish Law in terms of the constitution is the sovereignty of the people. Issues of legality are therefore secondary to the basic issues of democracy and accountability. This is supported by International Law as you are aware from the Referenda that resulted in Estonia and other Baltic Nations succeeding from the Soviet Union despite the opposition from Moscow. If the Referendum in Scotland produces a majority in favour of independence we would expect the British Government and all of its institutions to respect the decision of the people.
Q 2 What are your views on the UK Parliament’s legislation to deliver a Referendum on Independence?
Answer 2 Given that each and every member of the current UK Government as well as the official New Labour opposition were opposed to the people of Scotland having the opportunity to vote in the Referendum, the hypocrisy of both the current Government and official opposition’s attempt to interfere in what is clearly a Scottish matter is breathtaking.
Q 3 What are your views on whether the Scottish Bill should be used either to (1) give the Scottish Parliament the power to legislate for a Referendum or (2) directly deliver a Referendum ?
Answer 3 Please see answers to questions 1 and 2, which for clarity we would add, the UK Government have failed to agree to any of the transfers of power requested by the Scottish Government in terms of the Scotland Bill. The Conservative Party in particular is clearly no more pro-devolution than it was prior to the establishment of the Scottish Parliament. This matter is therefore one that the Scottish Government and not the UK Government should be leading on.
Q 4 What are your views on the oversight arrangements for Referendum on Scottish Independence?
Answer 4 We are conscious of the last two Referenda organised in constitutional matters in Scotland, these being in 1979 and 1997 Devolution Referenda. The first of these had the infamous 40% rule added as a wrecking motion and the second of these held in 1997 miraculously appeared with two questions rather than the one promised prior to the 1997 General Election. The record of the Westminster establishment in acting in a fair and balanced manner is therefore not a good one and concerns have rightly been expressed in Scotland of the possibility of interference by a Government who have already intimated it would have been possible to frustrate the ambitions of the Scottish people. We therefore support the Scottish Government’s position of seeking to have the overseeing exercise undertaken from within Scotland and will participate in their consultation exercise to identify the most appropriate agencies or individuals responsible for doing so.
Q 5 Do you think the Electoral Commission should have a role in overseeing a Referendum of Scottish Independence ?
Answer 5 Please see answer to question 4.
Q 6 What are your views on which people should be entitled to vote in the Scottish Independence Referendum?
Answer 6 It is our view that everyone on the Electoral Roll in each of the Scottish constituencies should be entitled to vote in a Referendum. We would also add that there is no reason why 16 and 17 year olds should be denied a franchise and would point out that not only is this the policy of the Scottish National Party but giving the votes to 16 and 17 year olds is also the policy of the Liberal and Labour Parties.
Q 7 What are your views on the timing of a Referendum ?
Answer 7 The question of timing has been clarified by the Scottish Government and we support their position of holding the Referendum in the Autumn of 2014. It is important that there is a informed and proper debate on the matter with sufficient time being available to answer the many questions that would exist in terms of the mechanism and outcomes. Those who argue for an quick Referendum do so because they believe that a rushed poll will result in confused debate thus benefiting the position in support for the status quo. Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond MSP, was very clear during the election campaign in 2011 that the Referendum would take place in the second part of the term of office and outlined his reasons for doing so. At that time all of those who were arguing for a quick Referendum were opposed to the principle of holding a Referendum and therefore altered our position significantly in an opportunist manner.
Q 8 What are you views on the questions to be asked in the Referendum?
Answer 8 Clearly there is a mandate for the question of Scottish Independence to be included on a ballot paper following the SNP’s historic result in 2011. We would also argue that there is a case for giving consideration to other options and find it strange that parties which profess to be for greater powers for the Scottish Parliament are arguing against any genuine consultation with the Scottish people. However, if the so called Unionist Parties wish to treat the Scottish people with contempt as clearly they do, then we would advocate that there would be only question on the ballot paper and Scots be invited to effectively choose between the status quo and Independence.
Q 9 What are your views on the draft Section 30 Order?
Answer 9 Once again, the sovereignty lies with the people of Scotland. Lawyers may argue as to how the bureaucrats proceed as long as they proceed to enact the will of the people. If Section 30 support is being offered as an enhancement to the democratic process then it should be given without strings.
I sincerely hope the views of the Scottish National Party Group of Councillors within Falkirk Council will be taken into consideration by the UK Government as a consultee in this exercise.
Councillor David Alexander
SNP Group Leader
on behalf of Falkirk Council SNP Group