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Scotland Bill — Committee (5th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:15 pm on 21st March 2012.

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Photo of Lord Selsdon Lord Selsdon Conservative 9:15 pm, 21st March 2012

My Lords, I will speak to Amendment 96, if I am in order. I feel that because of my voice, I should give a brief introduction. My name is Malcolm McEacharn Mitchell-Thomson, and I carry the burden of being Lord Selsdon, which is actually registered in Scotland. I am also a Scottish Baronet. But on the business of one's past and the Scottish relationship, I ask: who is a Scot, and where or what is a Scot?

As noble Lords know, 5 million Scots live in Scotland, 400,000 or more live in England, and 40 million around the world. If we are to move towards having a referendum, I for one would like to be able to vote for the first time in my life-because by accident of birth, I have never had a vote-in a referendum. I have reason to believe there are many others in the world who will claim they are Scots who would like to be consulted in one form or another. This is why I tabled my amendment on Burns Night, and it was well received by many of the Burns associations.

It is a very difficult matter. If we do not consult, many people who are not in Scotland will feel that they have been ignored. My amendment draws attention to us. In this House, by accident or by recent legislation, we are deemed to be resident, ordinarily resident and domiciled in the United Kingdom. What happens to us if the referendum goes through and there is devolution? Are we still domiciled in the United Kingdom? Domiciled is an interesting concept. As an ex-banker, I know that there is no way I can be anything other than domiciled in Scotland. The reason is that, as your Lordships know, you take the domicile of your father at birth, which is your domicile of origin. Unless you physically and emotionally make a move to change that domicile to a domicile of choice, your domicile remains your domicile of origin. It passes through the male line if you do not change it. Therefore, there could be more people outside Scotland who have the right to vote than there are in Scotland.

I personally am hooked there-line and sinker. I have not got rid of any property in Scotland. You have to cut off all your links and sell your properties and perhaps resign from your clubs. I have the advantage or disadvantage of having a lair. When you reach the age of 50, you receive from some smart Writer to the Signet a brown envelope containing your lair certificate. I did not know that a lair was a plot. I did not know also that as my family is international-my great grandfather was Provost of Edinburgh and my great-great-grandfather was the first Lord Mayor of Melbourne; my family fled Scotland to earn some money and were the biggest coal people in Canada, so I am spread and twisted across the world-I have two lairs, although there is only one of me. Furthermore, the McEacharn family has a mausoleum in Galloway. When I visited it, I was asked to make a contribution, although the stipend was originally drawn up at the turn of the century. The agreement was that we would effectively allow them to keep the motor mower and gardening equipment in there because there was plenty of room and we no longer had the same number of children as we had had in the past.

My point is simple. However the referendum is constructed, there should be some consultation among the Scottish community around the world to see what their views are. I believe that they are unionist at heart. It is not difficult to identify them because through the Burns society you can identify any Scot in the world, including those who like to pretend that they are Scots. One of the greatest benefits of Scotland is that relationship: the power and influence of Scots throughout the world. It is a Foreign Office that costs them money. It is also a relationship that brings interchanges, and one is pleased at the moment that there are more students coming to Scotland than there were. The dogs have not yet arrived, but more people wish to come there. So Scotland can prosper. It is not a question of coastline or anything like that; it is a question of attitude. Will the Government find some consultation formula that will allow us to consult Scots worldwide?