Westminster Committee report dismissed as a ‘shoddy embarrassment’ and out of date


By G.A.Ponsonby
A report published today by a Westminster Committee and which looks at the independence referendum, has been described as “an embarrassment” and “shoddy” by the SNP’s Westminster Chief Whip Stewart Hosie.
The SNP MP was responding to a report by the House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee, chaired by controversial Labour MP Ian Davidson, in which it claims serious questions remain unanswered regarding an independent Scotland.

The report, entitled ‘Referendum on Separation for Scotland’ claims that an independent Scotland’s credit rating would suffer and insists that answers are needed on what currency would be used should Scotland opt for independence.

The report also said there remained questions on what proportion of the UK’s debt an independent Scotland would take and whether Scots would need passports to travel.

However the report has been rubbished by SNP MP Stewart Hosie who blasted its use of pejorative language and insisted that many of the questions it posed have already been answered.

Mr Hosie claimed that the committee had already been overtaken by events which included a public consultation launched by the Scottish government.

“This report is an embarrassment to its authors.” said Mr Hosie who added: “Firstly, it talks about ‘separation for Scotland’, when Scottish Government policy is for independence, not separation.  But apart from its predictably pejorative approach to the issue of Scotland’s constitutional future, this shoddy report from the anti-independence parties has been totally overtaken by events.

Mr Hosie went on:

“It raises questions which have been dealt with in detail by the Scottish Government’s white paper published way back in 2009.  The issues it raises include the currency of an independent Scotland, which is now widely accepted will be Sterling, with even Scottish Secretary Michael Moore accepting that Scotland will keep the pound after independence.”

Questioned on the Politics Scotland programme on 15 January on the possibility of an independent Scotland staying with Sterling, Michael Moore said: “I don’t think there would be a legal problem with that”.

Mr Hosie also highlighted yesterday’s lowering of the UK’s credit outlook to negative by a major ratings agency and said:

“Even more embarrassingly for the Unionist parties, this report raises the issue of credit ratings just as the prospect of a downgrade of the UK’s triple-A status has been raised by a major ratings agency.

“Since Labour MP Ian Davidson announced his inquiry last October the Scottish Government has published its detailed proposals for the referendum and is consulting with communities across Scotland.  Indeed, the Scottish Government’s referendum consultation has already sparked
a huge response since it was launched late last month, in contrast to the few dozen responses to this inquiry.”

Mr Hosie insisted that Scotland was already moving forward and that any independence referendum was a matter for the Scottish Parliament, adding:

“ … the referendum that is happening is the one the SNP pledged in the election campaign, which we said will be held in the second half of this parliament.  That is the platform the SNP stood on last May, and which the people of Scotland gave us a resounding mandate to deliver.

“The days of Westminster Committees or Tory and Labour Governments telling the people of Scotland what to do are over.”

The Committee, which was originally set up to scrutinise the workings of the Scotland Office, had its remit altered after the SNP’s historic election win and turned its attention to the referendum.

However it was embroiled in controversy soon after when its outspoken Chairman, Labour MP Ian Davidson, was accused of threatening female member Dr Eilidh Whiteford with a “doing” if she spoke to the media.

The threats led to Dr Whiteford, an SNP MP, refusing to attend any further meetings whilst Mr Davidson remained its Chair.  Despite criticism by Women’s groups and a letter by female academics, the Labour MP refused to resign his position.

Given the very public attacks on the referendum and independence by the party leaders of the all Unionist committee members, the ‘conclusions’ reached will come as no surprise.

Committee chairman, Mr Davidson, said: “The big question about such an unknown quantity as separation is the terms of the ‘divorce settlement’ – how resources, rights and responsibilities will be broken up.

“The responses we’ve had clearly show that there is confusion and concern about this, but also that you only need to scratch the surface to reveal how many complex questions there are across banking, pensions, currency, national defences – but also many more personal things.”

He added: “The purpose of this inquiry is to set out from the start some of those questions and begin to explore their answers, with the aim of helping to make this process as clear and fair as possible.

“You cannot ask a big question about separation – however you construct it – without first asking and answering all these questions about how it will affect every aspect of every life, in Scotland and the UK as a whole.”

The report comes one day before a planned meeting between Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond and UK PM David Cameron in which the issue of the independence referendum is expected to feature prominently.