Fears of Westminster plan to use Scotland Bill to hijack referendum


By a Newsnet reporter
There are growing fears that London based Unionists are planning to attempt to wrest control of the independence referendum from the democratically elected Scottish government.
Remarks made by former BBC presenter, now Scottish Tory leader, Ruth Davidson on BBC Radio Scotland suggested that she supported what many believe to be plans for Westminster to use the Scotland Bill as a means of taking control of the timing of a referendum.

Ms Davidson stated yesterday that “breaking up Britain is not just an issue for Scotland” and has repeatedly suggested the Scottish government was planning a “rigged” referendum.

Reporting on the fears, Ms Davidson’s former BBC colleague, Glenn Campbell claimed that the UK government would argue that it was the sovereign government of the whole of the UK and it has the power over the constitution. 

Mr Campbell told listeners to Radio Scotland he thought the UK government would insist it was not trying to cut across the Scottish people but that they would present the move as positive and enabling, ensuring the process could be sped up and the issue resolved.

Commenting on the speculation and on the remarks by the new Tory leader, SNP MSP Derek Mackay expressed regret the Ms Davidson’s priority was to refuse Scots the right to the referendum they voted for instead of proposing amendments that would equip the Scotland Bill with job-creating powers.

Mr Mackay, SNP Business Convener, also seized on Ms Davidson’s repeated attempts to misrepresent a BBC poll by claiming that the “more powers” question was effectively the “Scotland Bill” option.

Mr Mackay said:

“It is regrettable that Ruth Davidson’s first priority is to try and booby-trap the Scotland Bill instead of coming forward with constructive amendments that would deliver job-creating powers.

“And Ruth Davidson’s deliberately misleading comments about the BBC’s ‘more powers’ question is another blunder which will reinforce the distrust people have off her party in Scotland.  The BBC was very clear this question was for more powers beyond the Scotland Bill.”

The BBC survey presented respondents with a devo-max option that was defined as all powers returning to Scotland with the exception of defence and foreign affairs.  Mr Mackay claimed that the current Scotland Bill did not address Scotland’s economic needs.

The Scottish government has called for powers over corporation tax and air passenger duty to be included in the Bill.  The UK government have already indicated that the powers will be devolved to Northern Ireland.

Mr Mackay added:

“The SNP set out clear objectives in our manifesto, and received an overwhelming mandate on that basis – the other parties would do well to take their guidance and compass from the people of Scotland, so that together we can secure the economic and financial powers we need to boost growth and employment in the Scottish economy.

“As it stands the Scotland Bill does not address the challenges ahead.  It does not meet the economic aspirations or needs of Scotland’s people and that should be the first priority.

“A referendum in Scotland is clearly a matter for the Scottish Parliament and Government – and the referendum that is happening is the one the SNP pledged in the election campaign.  That is the platform the SNP stood on in May, and which the people of Scotland gave us a resounding mandate to deliver.”