We don’t need London’s permission to hold referendum Sturgeon tells Cameron

531
3896

By G.A.Ponsonby
 
SNP Deputy leader Nicola Sturgeon has warned Tory PM David Cameron about interfering in Scottish democracy and insisted that Scotland does not need his permission to hold a referendum on independence.
 

By G.A.Ponsonby
 
SNP Deputy leader Nicola Sturgeon has warned Tory PM David Cameron about interfering in Scottish democracy and insisted that Scotland does not need his permission to hold a referendum on independence.
 
Ms Sturgeon was speaking prior to an expected announcement from the Tory/Lib Dem coalition that will spell out the conditions London says must be met before it will transfer powers it claims the Scottish government needs before it can hold an independence referendum.

Media reports suggest that the UK Government will insist that only a single yes/no question can be asked and that the referendum must be controlled from London via the UK Electoral Commission.
 
It is expected that Lib Dem Michael Moore will tell the House of Commons that the ballot must not be open to voters under 18 years of age, a response to an SNP proposal that anyone aged 16 or over be allowed to participate.

The announcement by the Secretary of State for Scotland is also expected to demand that the referendum be held within two years, almost certainly clashing with the pledge by the SNP in the Scottish election campaign to hold the vote in the second half of this term.

It is understood that Mr Moore will announce a three month consultation which may then be followed by amendments to the Scotland Bill.  If true it will signal yet another U turn from the Lib Dem MP who last May insisted that any such wrangling over the process of the referendum would be needless time wasted.

Speaking back in May he said: “The Scottish secretary said: “We could, I suppose, try to make a constitutional issue about where the powers lie or don’t, but I don’t think that would be a sensible use of anybody’s time.”

The escalating row follows the sudden intervention of Tory PM David Cameron into the independence debate.

Mr Cameron’s attempts at wresting control of the referendum from Scotland have been labelled an “attack on Scottish democracy” by the Scottish Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Ms Sturgeon insisted that the Scottish government did not need London’s permission to hold the ballot but said that if the coalition was worried about the legality then they could simply transfer the powers without any conditions.

New Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont supported Mr Cameron’s demands for an early referendum and said that if the offer by the Tory leader helped clarify the legal position then she welcomed it.

She said: “I think if that’s what’s been offered that would be helpful”

However a split emerged after senior Scottish Labour figures attacked the Tory leader’s attempt at grabbing control of the referendum. 

Former Labour First Minister Henry McLeish claimed that Mr Cameron’s intervention was ignorant and very dangerous and suggested that it may in fact increase support for independence.

Former Labour Minister Malcolm Chisholm called Cameron’s move “mad meddling” which he said will “greatly increase support for independence”.

It is also being reported that Tory Chancellor George Osborne is to take the lead on the anti-independence campaign, because of so called ‘pressure’ from  businesses who Unionists claim are worried about the Scottish Government’s referendum schedule.

However thus far they have refused to name any of the companies they claim to have spoken to.

Scottish employment figures have outperformed the UK as a whole since the Scottish election and only yesterday official figures revealed that Scottish businesses have achieved 12 months continuous growth – again outperforming the rest of the UK.

The move by Westminster may well herald a constitutional crisis if London is seen to ignore the clear democratic mandate given to the re-elected SNP Government by the Scottish people.

Any changes proposed by London, if not implemented using the Scotland Bill, will require the approval of both Parliaments and if as expected, the SNP refuse to bow to what many may see as bullying interference from London then David Cameron’s next move may well prove crucial in establishing the mood for London Edinburgh relations for the foreseeable future.