Scotland politics

Scottish independence: Lords' committee calls for debate clarity

Scottish independence
Image caption The Committee said voters needed more information from both sides before the public went to the polls

Both the UK and Scottish governments have been told by a committee of peers to be "more open" about what happens after the independence vote.

The House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee criticised both for failing to spell out any possible consequences of the vote, whatever the outcome.

The Scottish government accused the committee of being "out of touch".

The UK government said it would publish a series of analysis papers in the run-up to the vote in September 2014.

The Economic Affairs Committee said both governments should publish what they called their "red lines" on issues such as currency, defence, division of assets and debts, and membership of the European Union before the vote.

'Indicate red lines'

The Scottish government announced that the referendum will be held on 18 September 2014.

Chairman of the committee, Lord MacGregor, said it was "crucial that all the major implications are fully debated and understood by the voters well before the actual vote takes place".

Lord MacGregor continued: "Many of these issues could not be clarified - if there is a Yes vote - until after negotiations following such a vote.

Image caption Lord MacGregor is the Chair of the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee

"So we recommend in particular that the Scottish and British governments should indicate the 'red lines' of their negotiating stance on them before the referendum so that voters can make an informed choice."

He said while the report does not take a position on whether people should vote yes or no in the poll, the public "deserve to cast their vote based on a proper understanding of the possible economic impact".

"At present they do not have the information to do so," he added.

Scottish Finance Secretary John Swinney claimed some of the report's findings, including those on defence jobs, were "ridiculous".

Political response

He said: "We are firmly committed to ensuring the people of Scotland have all the information they need on the opportunities of independence to take the positive step forward with a Yes vote in 2014, which amongst other things would bring an end to unelected Lords talking Scotland down.

"In the coming months, the Scottish government will publish a series of papers, including defence and security, covering the main arguments for independence, leading to a white paper in the autumn that will set out the government's proposals for an independent Scotland."

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said: "We agree that key issues such as the currency arrangements for an independent Scotland and the danger of basing an economic vision on a volatile and declining resource like oil should be explored in detail.

"That's why we are publishing a series of Scotland analysis papers examining the key issues ahead of the referendum.

"We have been clear we will not 'pre-negotiate' the terms of independence before people in Scotland have had their say in the referendum. To do so would require the government to act on behalf of only part of the UK."

The House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee is made up of Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat and cross-bench peers, but no members of the SNP.

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