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Scotland Bill — Committee (5th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:45 pm on 21st March 2012.

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Photo of Lord Maclennan of Rogart Lord Maclennan of Rogart Liberal Democrat 9:45 pm, 21st March 2012

My Lords, I would like to say how much I sympathise and agree with the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor. In the world in which we live, where there is great mobility, residence is not a true test of connection. It is much the easiest way to determine the outcome of a referendum but it is not necessarily going to reflect the views of those who care for Scotland and sense that they belong to it. In my former constituency, Caithness and Sutherland, because there is not a substantial amount of employment in the area, many local people go all over the world to use the skills that they cannot exercise in Scotland. But there is no doubt that they go back when they have completed their jobs, and if they have earned a lot of money, they go back earlier. That is a quite a common occurrence.

I could also talk about my siblings, all of whom feel very strongly that they are Scottish, but for various reasons work in different places. My younger brother works in Glasgow and clearly would be entitled to a vote. My middle brother works all around Britain but returns to Scotland whenever he is free to take a holiday. My sister has worked in Scotland, but she is widowed and now spends part of the time on her own in Greece. However, she still identifies herself strongly with Scotland.

What we are looking for is a referendum that actually reflects the views of those who consider themselves to be Scottish, but it is a difficult issue. I do not think we want just to snap up the easiest decision. I commend the suggestions made by the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor, and my noble friend Lord Selsdon for some clever consideration. If this is left to the Electoral Commission, I hope that it will not simply take the easy way out.