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Scotland Bill — Committee (5th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:00 pm on 21st March 2012.

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Photo of Lord Wallace of Tankerness Lord Wallace of Tankerness Lords Spokesperson (Attorney General's Office), Lords Spokesperson (Wales Office), The Advocate-General for Scotland, Lords Spokesperson (Scotland Office) 7:00 pm, 21st March 2012

I entirely agree with the noble Lord that the point is important. He made an important distinction between a referendum on whether Scotland should remain part of the United Kingdom, and one on whether Scotland should remain part of the United Kingdom but under a different devolution settlement. He was right that it would have implications for other parts of the United Kingdom. In 1997 the Government of whom he was a member came to power with a substantial mandate to introduce devolution, not only for Scotland but for Wales and Northern Ireland. Parliament respected that mandate and passed the legislation. What we are doing in the Bill, although it brings changes, proceeds from the manifestos of three parties.

The noble Lord made that distinction, and it is the Government's view that there should be a single question on independence and that any other question would be of a different character and therefore would not sit well if it came in the double-question referendum that is sometimes suggested. The point that I was making was that the Scottish Government, in their consultation document, stated that their preference was for a question on independence. We should not lose sight of that, as sometimes it is easy to do.

We believe that a referendum on independence should address the single most significant issue that people in Scotland will face for many generations. That is why in the consultation paper we proposed that there should be a single question on independence.