Constitutional Reform

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 20th May 1992.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of John McAllion John McAllion , Dundee East 12:00 am, 20th May 1992

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has received about holding a referendum on the future government of Scotland.

Photo of Mr William McKelvey Mr William McKelvey , Kilmarnock and Loudoun

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has received about the holding of a referendum on the future government of Scotland.

Photo of Mr Ian Lang Mr Ian Lang , Galloway and Upper Nithsdale

Since 9 April 1992, I have received 24 letters about the holding of a referendum on the future government of Scotland, of which 18 were in favour. I have also received one small petition.

Photo of John McAllion John McAllion , Dundee East

Will the Secretary of State for Scotland come to Scotland United's next rally and march in Edinburgh on Saturday 6 June where he will see thousands upon thousands of Scots voicing their demand for a referendum? Perhaps he will take that opportunity to explain to them why the Government support democracy for small nations everywhere in the world except Scotland. Does he understand that we so-called Opposition Scottish Members actually represent the democratic majority in Scotland and that we have come south not to sell Scotland out but to wring from this undemocratic Westminster Parliament, by whatever means necessary in or out of this place, Scotland's democratic right to decide for itself how and by whom it is governed?

Photo of Mr Ian Lang Mr Ian Lang , Galloway and Upper Nithsdale

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman did not hear my original answer. I have had 18 letters in favour of a referendum. The hon. Gentleman talks about Scotland United. The football season is over and that team has been relegated.

Photo of Mr William McKelvey Mr William McKelvey , Kilmarnock and Loudoun

Having listened carefully—[Interruption.]—and taken my hands out of my pockets; I often listen to Conservative Members—may I ask the Secretary of State whether he recalls that, when questioned about Northern Ireland, the Prime Minister said that he would not only answer but would accede to the wishes of the people of Northern Ireland about how they wish to be governed? Will the Secretary of State display the same courage and graciousness by telling the people of Scotland that, whatever the findings of the investigation of the wishes of the people of Scotland on their future—a process which is unlike the undemocratic farce in Ayrshire when it was found that out of 256 written submissions on opting out only 11 were in favour but he rode roughshod over people's wishes—on this occasion the matter will at least be democratic?

Photo of Mr Ian Lang Mr Ian Lang , Galloway and Upper Nithsdale

I say again that I have received 18 letters in favour of a referendum in Scotland. I have had an avalanche of letters supporting the maintenance of Scotland's place within the United Kingdom. In the general election we put that issue at the forefront of our campaign. The Labour party campaigned for devolution and it was defeated throughout the United Kingdom for election to a United Kingdom Parliament.

Photo of Mr Raymond Robertson Mr Raymond Robertson , Aberdeen South

Will my right hon. Friend take this opportunity to nail once and for all the lie that there is consensus throughout Scotland for constitutional change and will he remind the House that on 9 April, Aberdeen and the north-east of Scotland decisively rejected the devolution proposals of the opposition parties and that in so doing they served notice that they wanted no truck whatever with the black tee-shirt brigade from Glasgow and Dundee?

Photo of Mr Ian Lang Mr Ian Lang , Galloway and Upper Nithsdale

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Indeed, 79 per cent. of the electorate in the general election voted against independence. I think that the vast majority of hon. Members believe that the United Kingdom should remain united.

Photo of Mr John Marshall Mr John Marshall , Hendon South

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that in the referendum on 9 April the separatists were slaughtered? Will he further confirm that a tax-raising Scottish assembly would lead to higher personal taxes in Scotland, much less inward investment and, therefore, higher unemployment?

Photo of Mr Ian Lang Mr Ian Lang , Galloway and Upper Nithsdale

My hon. Friend is absolutely right on all points. It is hard to have respect for a party which in its policies of 8 April was prepared to oppose a referendum, when on 9 April it lost the election and on 10 April it came out in favour of a referendum. That was not a very credible posture.

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Leader, Scottish National Party

Is the Secretary of State prepared to concede that his position during the general election was that anyone who did not vote for the Conservative party was voting to endanger the Union? By that standard, 75 per cent. of the people of Scotland so voted. In the district elections the Conservative party was out-polled by the Scottish National party. That was only two weeks ago. Will he concede that the real reason why he will not hold a referendum is that he has no confidence that his position will carry the day? Is there no sense of shame and embarrassment about the fact that a Secretary of State can continue in office, enforcing his policies against the will of the Scottish people on a mandate that can only be described as shaky, if not fraudulent?

Photo of Mr Ian Lang Mr Ian Lang , Galloway and Upper Nithsdale

The hon. Gentleman speaks about the will of the Scottish people. He said during the general election that his party would win 37 seats and that that would be a mandate to negotiate independence. His party won three seats. He then told us that the district elections would be a supervote on the constitution of Scotland. His party won control of one district council by a majority of one ward, by a majority of one vote. It has since taken control of another district council on a cut of the cards. It seems that there were too many jokers in the pack.

Photo of Donald Dewar Donald Dewar , Glasgow Garscadden

Does the Secretary of State accept that those of us who believe that Scotland's place remains within the United Kingdom can argue, and have the support of Scotland in so doing, that the United Kingdom is not a static concept and that there is major room for improvement and for a shift in the balance of power towards Scots running their own affairs within this country? Does the right hon. Gentleman remember that he made it clear again and again during the general election that the election in Scotland was about the status quo and that his party received the support of just over one in four of the voters? Would it not be a service to democracy and a way of settling a problem that will not go away to put the status quo to the test in a referendum? Does the Secretary of State maintain that there is no demand for change? If he does, is not the position that he is frightened of the result? Does not that explain his refusal to organise a referendum?

Photo of Mr Ian Lang Mr Ian Lang , Galloway and Upper Nithsdale

The hon. Gentleman was against a referendum until his party lost the general election. I remind him that 61 per cent. of the electorate in Scotland voted against the Labour party. Labour cheerfully contemplated taking power in the United Kingdom and planned to impose a Scottish assembly on the strength of the Scottish Labour vote while it had only minority power in England. It planned to do that without a referendum. The hon. Gentleman's position is entirely unacceptable.

Photo of John McAllion John McAllion , Dundee East

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Given the shameless response of the Secretary of State for Scotland, I intend to raise the matter on the Adjournment of the House.