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Scotland Bill — Committee (5th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:45 pm on 21st March 2012.

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Photo of Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Labour 3:45 pm, 21st March 2012

I understand the noble Lord's frustration about the whole process and the way it has been dealt with. The noble Earl, Lord Caithness, makes a very good point, which others made earlier, about the time between Committee and Report. The noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, also made that point effectively.

I think we should absolve the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace of Tankerness, of blame in relation to this. He has been faced with great difficulties from a number of sources. I was going to include the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth as one of the people who created some difficulty for him, but I will just put that to one side for a minute. The noble Lord has had to labour with a Cabinet which has only recently begun to realise some of the implications of Scottish independence and what it might mean-to our defence policy and to a range of other things-if it were to go ahead. It has taken some time for it to realise the enormity of the possibility of Scotland seceding from the rest of the United Kingdom, and that is something that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace, has had to deal with. He has also had to deal with a very difficult negotiating body in the Scottish Executive, and its leader in particular. Driving a bargain with it is not easy.

We should consider that earlier this week-and I hope I am not giving any secrets away-we may not have had even this letter and the Statement today if it had not been for the intervention of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace of Tankerness. Admittedly, he was under pressure from the Opposition-both the Front and Back Benches-and no doubt from the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, as well, but it is to his credit that he got us the Statement. Otherwise we would really have been dealing with it in the dark.