Scottish independence: Moore says no to pre-Yes negotiations

Michael Moore was being interviewed by the BBC's Andrew Kerr

A UK government minister has said it would be "nonsensical" to negotiate the exit terms of Scottish independence ahead of the historic referendum.

Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore made his comment during a webcast with BBC Scotland news.

He was answering questions sent in by online readers.

Scots go to the polls on Thursday, 18 September, next year - when they will be asked the yes/no question: "Should Scotland be an independent country?"

During the half-hour online interview with host Andrew Kerr, Mr Moore made it clear that he was not in the business of working out what independence would be like because he did "not expect it" and did "not want to see it".

The Liberal Democrat MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk said the UK coalition government had already outlined its position on a number of issues, including the legal framework of the UK; the currency and financial services.

He added that more clarification, through officially published papers, would be given on key topics in the coming weeks.

Start Quote

As the secretary of state for Scotland, I'm not in a position to sit here in London - when I'm here a couple of days a week - and negotiate with the rest of the UK against Scotland”

End Quote Michael Moore Secretary of State for Scotland

Mr Moore said he could understand that the electorate wanted a "flavour" of the "issues at stake" and he believed the Westminster government was doing that through the "Scottish analysis programme".

However, when asked by website reader Michael Figures whether he would put pressure on the UK government to pre-negotiate "exit terms with the Scottish government" he insisted that was not part of his agenda.

Mr Moore told the BBC: "As the secretary of state for Scotland, I'm not in a position to sit here in London - when I'm here a couple of days a week - and negotiate with the rest of the UK against Scotland.

"That is nonsensical for me as a Scot, it is also nonsensical for the prime minister, the deputy prime minister, the foreign secretary and the other great offices of the state who have responsibilities to the whole of the country.

"They are not looking to be responsible only for part of it and start thinking Scotland does not exist - that is not part of our agenda."

However, he added: "On the other hand what we have said, with the Scottish government, is we know once a vote is taken if it is in favour of independence we all have to sit down and work out our respective positions - that is the point where the rest of the UK can do that."

A deal setting out terms to hold a Scottish independence referendum was signed by Prime Minister David Cameron and First Minister Alex Salmond in October last year.

The SNP government secured a mandate to hold the ballot after its landslide Scottish election win in May 2011.

When and what?

  • Scottish independence referendum - The electorate in Scotland will go to the polls on Thursday, 18 September, 2014
  • The question - Voters will be asked the yes/no questions: "Should Scotland be an independent country?"

The UK government, which has responsibility over constitutional issues, granted limited powers to the Scottish Parliament to hold a legal referendum, under a mechanism called Section 30.

In the webcast Mr Moore was asked about the franchise for the vote. Readers Jock Meikle, who divides his time between Falkirk and London, and Richard Mooney, who is a Scot living in Taiwan, questioned why they could not take part in the referendum.

The minister said the rules around who could vote - which are the same as those participating in a Holyrood election - were agreed by both the UK and Scottish governments.

Mr Moore said that he had jokingly urged people questioning rules on the qualifying electorate to "come home to Scotland" to take part.

'Set out case'

He urged campaigners from Yes Scotland to produce more information on what they believed would happen in the event of independence.

Mr Moore said: "There is a routine presentation by the SNP and others as if somehow it will be automatic that things will continue, that the pound will continue to be available to Scotland.

"But if we had a currency union we would have to agree terms and conditions, we would have to work out what restrictions there would be on our tax setting powers and our borrowing capabilities because, as we are seeing in the rest of Europe at the moment, that is central to the way the euro hopes to recover from its existing mess that it is in."

Mr Moore said that the Bank of England was answerable to the Houses of Parliament at Westminster and "would continue to be so after independence".

He added: "If we in Scotland were trying to negotiate continued participation in the Bank of England we would have to set out the case and would have to see if the rest of the UK wanted to be part of that currency union and there are big questions on whether or not that would be the case."

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