Minister Moore 'happy to sort out' legal referendum

Michael Moore and Alex Salmond Michael Moore says he wants to work with Alex Salmond

UK minister Michael Moore has said he would be happy to work with Scotland's first minister to "sort out" legal issues over an independence referendum.

The Westminster government had insisted that Holyrood could not go ahead with the poll without its authority.

But Alex Salmond said his SNP administration had the right to hold the referendum in the autumn of 2014.

If Westminster and Holyrood fail to resolve the legal issue it could end up being ruled over by the Supreme Court.

Mr Moore insisted that "we get on with" the referendum which he said was the "most important decision any of us in Scotland will take in our lives".

During Scottish Questions in the House of Commons, the Lib Dem coalition minister told MPs that the referendum would be "made in Scotland and for the people of Scotland".

A unified tone on the issue was sounded during Prime Minister's Questions when David Cameron said he "100% agreed" with Labour leader Ed Miliband that the UK was "stronger together and weaker apart".

Start Quote

Let's talk about how to organise a referendum on independence or you could end up in court. ”

End Quote

The PM said he was a passionate believer in the union, adding that he was "sad that we are even having this debate".

However, Mr Cameron acknowledged that the SNP's May 2011 election victory gave it the right to hold a referendum.

On Tuesday the MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk delivered a statement on the Scottish referendum and confirmed a UK government consultation would take place.

The SNP government has also announced that it would hold its own consultation on the Scottish independence vote.

In addition, it revealed it wanted the referendum to be held in autumn 2014.

But it has been argued that in order for it to be binding, the UK government needs to provide the Scottish government with the legal authority.

Westminster's "clear view" was that the power to hold a referendum was "reserved" to Westminster under devolution laws passed in 1998 and that the Scottish government could not authorise a referendum on its own.

Mr Moore told BBC Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme: "I think the important point is that we would not want to carry out the whole referendum process, make the decision in the ballot box and then discover somebody somewhere wanted to challenge that."

'Get out clause'

Asked who might want to make a legal challenge, he said: "I don't know, but isn't it better to resolve that potential, get rid of any risk which I think is clear cut risk, let's get on with it.

"I am happy to work with Alex to sort out the legal issue and then let's have a debate about whether or not Scotland should be part of the UK or not - that is the crux of this matter."

SNP position Unionist position

Wants the referendum in the autumn of 2014

Wants the referendum "sooner rather than later"

Backs a "yes/no" ballot but is open minded on including a second "devo max" question

Wants a one question "yes/no" ballot

Wants 16 and 17-year-olds to be able to vote in the referendum

Backs the status quo with 18 and over able to vote

Wants a special commission to conduct the referendum

Wants the Electoral Commission to oversee the vote

But Mr Salmond said UK PM David Cameron had "no mandate" to set the rules and suggested he was doing so because he was "frightened" he would lose.

The SNP leader believed the 2014 date would allow people to make a "considered" decision on the country's future within the UK.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme it was "not fair" to suggest he was worried he would lose if the referendum had only two options - to stay in the UK or leave it - which is the UK government's preference.

He denied wanting a "get out clause" and said there was a "lot of opinion in Scotland" supporting a third option - increased financial powers for the Scottish government, short of full independence, known as "devo max".

Mr Salmond said: "I just don't think it's right and proper at this stage, before people have had a consultation on the referendum question or questions for the UK government to start ruling that out.

"Why should we be excluding what is a legitimate point of view across Scotland?

"Perhaps the Westminster politicians are trying to set the ground rules, the timing, who votes, the questions because they are frightened they will lose it?"

Mr Salmond went on to accuse the UK government of adopting a belligerent attitude.

He said Mr Cameron's intervention had been "almost Thatcher-esque". He added: "The idea [was] that 'London knows best' and was really operating in our best interests but wanted to set the ground rules for our referendum, despite the fact he's got no mandate whatsoever for doing so.

"The SNP won an overwhelming majority on the promise that we would offer the people a referendum on their own future, is it not entirely reasonable that that referendum ... is made in Scotland and decided by the Scottish people?"

Big differences

Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont said Mr Salmond's announcing the preferred date was a "panicked response from a panicked first minister".

Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, said the "key issues" were what the referendum question would be and who would oversee the vote.

Under the Scottish government's timetable, a referendum bill would be introduced at Holyrood in January 2013, it would be expected to be passed by the autumn and gain Royal Assent later in 2013.

Big differences also remain between the Scottish and UK governments on the timing of the referendum, who would run it and on whether 16 and 17-year-olds could vote.

From BBC Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme

Michael Moore, Scottish Secretary of State Alex Salmond, Scotland's First Minister

"This is the most important decision any of us in Scotland will take in our lives. The most historical decision in 300 years, on that much we agree. I think a decision like that is one we want debated and resolved sooner rather than later." Listen in full

"Our conditions are quite clear - this must be a referendum built and run in Scotland, accountable to the Scottish Parliament. It has to be run fairly and transparently, but we won't accept unreasonable conditions placed by London." Listen in full


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Scotland Decides

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  • rate this

    Comment number 1059.


    The government should introduce a Scotch Whiskey tax. Then we could see history repeat itself, though I don’t think that the Scots would throw bottles of Whiskey into Leith harbour!


    Remember the smirk on Brown's face when he did not raise duty on Whisky for all those years?

  • Comment number 1058.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1057.

    Scotland currently is subsidised, they have a much higher percapita spend then England, which is why they enjoy free prescriptions and free University places. If they relied only the Tax income they generate they may well find things a little more difficult.
    Perhaps they would be happy to buy the Royal Bank of Scotland of the UK government and pay off all it debts when they go "independent".

  • rate this

    Comment number 1056.


    Yes, the high court of the justiciary is the highest criminal court in Scotland but prior to the creation of the Supreme Court, the highest Civil Court was the House of Lords. The Supreme Court was set up to distance the judiciary from government. The Supreme Court is Scotland's Highest Civil Court and issues relating to the legality of a referendum are a civil matter not criminal

  • rate this

    Comment number 1055.

    The big question: how much is this fiasco going to cost, who pays for it and why does the UK Gov pander to Wee 'Eck this way?

    Scotland forever (to their credit) punch above their weight but I'm certain the English are also fed up with the preferential treatment and the Scots' influence on England

    It's time to tough out Salmond and his like - better to explore trade eastwards than this "domestic"

  • rate this

    Comment number 1054.

    In reference to my comment at 977; this Scottish financial illiteracy has bedevilled them, and us (Brown), for centuries. I for one want them to win their referendum which MUST be fully compliant with UK law if they are to win. Please Alex see some sense or we will never be shot of your miserable burden of a country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1053.

    SNP MP's do not vote on matters affecting only England it is written party policy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1052.

    Will my wife, child and I be deported from England as illegal immigrants if Scotland gets independence? We're Scottish, not English, and Scotland won't be part of the EU, what with the state of the Eurozone I don't know how quickly they can get a functioning currency that will allow them entry to the EU?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1051.

    I am so sick and tired of all this, and of that weasal Salmond and the stooges that support him.

    The people that support the SNP do so for no better reason than getting irritated when it takes English football commentators under a minute to mention 1966 during the world cup.

    SNP voters - time to grow up and get real because your warped logic is very destructive and irresponsible.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1050.

    Can you back up any of your comments?

    Most of the people I know would take independence now. You just have to look through these comments. The anti-Scottish feeling is hysterical, and much of them as so ill thought out as to be pathetic. The ignorance about Scotland and Scottish issues is astounding!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1049.

    "All this talk from people south of the border about how THEY should be included in the referendum - I honestly really do despair."

    I live south of the border but I am Scottish. Are you nationalists going to dictate who gets the vote now? Is that the kind of democracy we Scots are going to get if we vote for independence?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1048.

    Dissolution of the UK is not in the best interests of its peoples. However, the political reality is that it is probably unavoidable given the competitive and antagonistic relationship between Westminster and national parliaments or assemblies. Devolution is an unhappy and unsustainable half-way house. Scotland should make the bad, but inevitable, decision to leave. Beware of 'friendly' wolves!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1047.

    I'm very happy for the people of Scotland to have the independence they require - or not if they choose. If it were England in this position, I would want the same. Independence should mean exactly that - If Scotland uses services from the rest of the UK, it should pay for them in full. The reverse must also apply. Anything less is not independent of anything and not fair on one party or the other

  • rate this

    Comment number 1046.

    The countries of the former Soviet Union and countries such as Czech Republic and Slovakia show that devolution can be a success. They made choices based on what was fundamentally right, not what was in their immediate economic interest. Scotland wouldn't be much different.

    However, I want the Union to stay. But I'm also a Tory. An independent Scotland would be fine news, electorally!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1045.

    @974 'In todays world strength lies in unity ' - Yes, Scotland would be part of the EU, NATO , UN etc
    How do you know you would be allowed to enter the EU ? It takes years to achieve EU membership & remember the UK is a member, Scotland alone is not. And you would enter NATO ? Even the UN you would have to apply for membership. None of this is automatic !

  • rate this

    Comment number 1044.

    "Will independant Scotland have its own defence force, or rely on the UK?" - Chris Mather

    Defend Scotland from whom? English invaders? The UK spends ludicrous amounts on the armed forces to no good purpose; slashing this would be one great advantage of independence. There are serious questions about an independent Scotland's viability, but that's not one of them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1043.

    I'm annoyed at Salmond's arrogance that this is a scottish issue, it isn't its a Union issue therefore the union should decide as it effects everyone thats the peoples of england, wales, N.Ireland as well as scotland.
    I'm thinking this was a bid by salmond to get more power but westminster has called his bluff, offering him for a limited time a LEGAL single question referendum else why not accept

  • rate this

    Comment number 1042.

    The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has a proud and rich history made so by the people of the individual nations. In these individual these nations there were, are and always will be a minority of 'haters'. Unfortunately the SNP has brought the Scottish minority to the fore putting at grave risk the future for all Scots and the Union in general.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1041.

    If Scotland is such a Burden on the UK why the debate! let them go. the UK needs Scotland more than it needs the UK. You all think that you keep Scotland afloat, if that is the case then why does it want to leave the Union. The Scottish are sick of the Cons/Lab governments and quite frankly who can blame them! If only the rest of the UK had the balls to vote a change!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1040.

    Please be precise - it is Scots Law. You may also be referring to EU (not UK) Union law?

    The Scottish people have the right to vote for independence. But if they vote 'yes' then surely the break-up of the union should be based on UK Law (Union Law), not Scottish Law.


Page 14 of 66


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