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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  • rate this

    Comment number 1079.

    "Dissolution of the UK is not in the best interests of its peoples"

    Would not a seperate English National Assembly be a better option, that way English only interets could be addressed without interference from "foreign" MPs but the UK and its reliance upon all its member nations would be retained? It would also diulte (will not say remove) strong border views.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1078.

    What is so important about being a "big" country with power and influence in the world? Do you think the citizens of Switzerland, Netherlands or Estonia would prefer to swap their lifestyles for the those of USA or UK with their grinding poverty, obscene wealth and need to fight battles all over the planet because they are despised by so many? It's about having contented, healthy citizens.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1077.

    @1061 - Ah, but they didn't have the internet back then.

    As an aside, worth noting that since the Cameron and Moore statements, there has been a surge in membership applications for the SNP - so many applications in the past 24 hours that it crashed their website. Over 300 new applications processed so far, with a huge backlog waiting to join. Funny that, eh ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1076.

    Would an non-Scots person living / working in Scotland get a vote on independence and likewise a Scot living in England?

    Assuming independence would a Scots person living / working in England be classified an Ex-Pat / Foreign National and vice versa for an English person north of the border?
    And what classifies someone as English or Scottish? Birth, Residency, time served in either camp?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1075.

    Let the Scots have the vote.
    If they vote in favour of independance then let them, so long as every single scot in our goverment or local councils steps down from that position.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1074.

    The majority of Scots don't want independence. Alex Salmond may be doing good things for Scotland right now which is why he is getting votes but that doesn't mean people of Scotland want to split from the rest of the UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1073.

    There is loads of comment about the Scots wanting a referendum to stay in the UK. How about England, Wales & N. Ireland having an equal vote to decide whether we still want Scotland in the Union. It's just so one sided. Keep it fair.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1072.

    Scots should hold a referendum whenever they choose, and ask whatever questions they want to ask.

    However, if the choice is Dev Max (and only then), the rest of the UK should get a referendum as to whether that is acceptable to them. Scotland can't remain part of the UK with new rules without the rest of the UK having a say.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1071.

    I was just wondering what is behind this debate on the future of Scotland. This is obviously calculated and we must wonder why. What is behind this need to give Scotland the vote now. Could it be that the polls in Scotland show a majority would stay in the union. So, a binding 'No' vote would kill this for another 30 years and any new resources onshore/offshore would benefit the chancellors purse.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1070.

    Mr Salmond - If you get an independant Scotland - will you grant The Shetland Isles a referendum ?
    Historically they were not part of Scotland and due to oil revenues would be vastly better off independent
    As with Scottish Oil there is no such thing as Shetland Oil.

    Indeed if the International Law of the Sea were applied properly most Oil would be in English waters if the UK broke up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1069.

    1032. fishinmad
    If Scotland can really afford to be fully independent or self-reliant, funded by oil revenues, whiskey exports and such, as claimed by so many on this thread - then why is Mr Salmond so desperate to cling on to Westminster funding?
    Is he?

    The whole point of the super-devolution is that Scotland would keep all its own taxes & there WOULDN'T be a Barnett Formula.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1068.

    Article 25 of the Act of Union states that "...all laws of either kingdom that may be inconsistent with the Articles in the Treaty are to be declared void.". The 1998 act of devolution is inconsistent with Article 25 of the Act of Union, therefor it is void and therefor it is not illegal for Scotland to declare independence via referendum without such powers having been already devolved.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1067.

    #995 Mayna

    For me it is simple, I am English , I am not British. I feel that I have as much in common with the French and Germans than with the Scots. I also feel that England would be financially stonger without the other UK nations. Finally am I sick and tired of the Scots and Welsh moaning how oppressed they are by the Union.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1066.

    @ Chris Mather.

    I read that Scotland would have a similar size armed forces to Norway. We would be getting rid of trident subs and our main naval base would be as Faslane. I believe we would purchase Kinross and Lossiemouth from the MOD and have our small air force and army barracks based there.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1065.

    #987 @ChaosEmerald:- "Salmond wants to give children a vote blah blah".
    Westminster have no qualms about sending "children" off to fight in wars (illegal ones at that).
    You'd think all would support the right of a 16 yr old to be trusted with a ballot slip in their hands. Are voting cards any more dangerous than SA80s or whatever type of gun the army give "children" to shoot ppl with these days?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1064.

    #976 meercatboldy

    Sorry, but I can't let this 'investment' line that Cameron and yourself are spouting go unanswered. It is a complete fallacy that business is 'scared' to invest due to uncertainty. The First Minister asked the PM what business have actually said this and he was unable to answer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1063.

    So many English voices here - this debate only scratches the surface. The resentment of having a central UK government in England, Scots, Welsh and Irish ignored by the "UK" press, bias in the media in general and a persistance in calling people British, when no such race exists.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1062.

    I'm English, but recognise that Scotland's not just a bit of our island, but a Nation in its own right. If three Benelux countries can survive independently within the EU, why not Scotland? But they'd need Scottish defence forces, Diplomatic Service, EU costs, and all the other things a sovereign nation needs. And no Barnett formula! providing an English subsidy, either.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1061.

    "Tell me, Mr. O'Connell," asked the stonecutter at the roadside, as Daniel O'Connell rode past on his horse. "What news on developments in Dublin?"
    "Never you mind," uttered O'Connell as he passed. "You just keep on cutting your stone."

    Daniel O'Connell: famous Irish independence advocate.
    Moral: independence is just a concept and makes no difference to the average working man/woman.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1060.

    If they want to have thier own country ok. No Scottish Parliment MPs in the UK Parliment. No money from England. They sort thier own problems out. Should save England loads of money. Bye.


    keep this post and add another with the word England replaced by Scotland then the BBC can delete all the rest of the comments.... sorted!


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