Referendum Campaign (Intimidation Allegations)

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 15th October 2014.

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Photo of Andrew Robathan Andrew Robathan Conservative, South Leicestershire 11:30 am, 15th October 2014

What assessment he has made of allegations of intimidation during the recent referendum campaign.

Photo of David Mundell David Mundell The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland

I hope that we can all agree that the referendum campaign was carried out in a democratic and open way, giving Scotland the debate it deserved. Given that the people of Scotland voted decisively to remain part of the United Kingdom, what matters now is respecting the result and working together to secure the new devolution settlement.

Photo of Andrew Robathan Andrew Robathan Conservative, South Leicestershire

Elections and voting in the United Kingdom have traditionally been viewed as free and fair, and free from intimidation, but only yesterday Mr Davidson described being called a traitor and a Judas. A former Deputy Leader of the Scottish National party was reported as saying that there will be a day of reckoning for those opposed to separation. There has been graffiti stating that those who voted no will be shot. That is disgraceful and a shame on those responsible. Notwithstanding the devolution of justice, will the Minister ask the Advocate-General for Scotland, Lord Wallace, to see whether further action should be taken and whether there was any criminal activity during the referendum campaign?

Photo of David Mundell David Mundell The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland

It is evident that there was some appalling behaviour during the referendum, not least towards people such as J.K. Rowling, when they expressed their views. However, I think we must regard the referendum overall as a triumph of the democratic process. After all, 85% of the Scottish population voted, and voted decisively to keep Scotland in the United Kingdom.

Photo of Brian H Donohoe Brian H Donohoe Labour, Central Ayrshire

It is clear that there was intimidation during the referendum, but a more important question for the Minister is: when does he see the possibility of another referendum? The last thing we need to get in the way of politicians’ day business is another referendum in a generation.

Photo of David Mundell David Mundell The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland

I absolutely agree. It is disappointing that in the days before the referendum the First Minister of Scotland was able to say that he did not foresee another referendum in his lifetime; then he said a generation; and now he is saying a few months. That is totally unacceptable. The sovereign will of the Scottish people is that Scotland should remain part of the United Kingdom. We should all come together to forge the new devolution settlement.

Photo of Malcolm Bruce Malcolm Bruce Chair, International Development Committee, Deputy Leader, Liberal Democrats, Chair, International Development Committee

On the Tuesday before the referendum, I was present in Inverurie when a small group of Better Together supporters who had been manning a street stall day was suddenly surrounded by a flash mob of 150 nationalists waving banners, shouting, playing music and creating an intimidating atmosphere. The Better Together supporters stood their ground sufficiently to ensure that the people of Gordon rejected independence by a majority of nearly 2:1.

Photo of David Mundell David Mundell The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland

The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to highlight the fact that such intimidatory and bad behaviour in the street and on the internet did nothing to further the cause of Yes Scotland. If demonstrators had not been outside the BBC but had been knocking on doors on the Sunday before the referendum, the result might have been closer.

Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Culture and Sport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Constitution)

May I tell the Minister what intimidation feels like? Banks threatened to leave Scotland; supermarkets threatened to put up prices; big business threatened to relocate to London; No campaigners told pensioners they would lose their pensions. The premise of “Project Fear” was built, designed and packaged to scare Scottish voters from voting for independence.

Photo of David Mundell David Mundell The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland

It disappoints me that the hon. Gentleman has so little faith and confidence in the voters of Scotland. I believe they were quite capable of seeing through bluff and bluster from any campaign. They voted in the way they wanted, which was to keep Scotland as part of the United Kingdom.