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Scotland Bill — Committee (5th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:15 pm on 21st March 2012.

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Photo of Lord Forsyth of Drumlean Lord Forsyth of Drumlean Conservative 7:15 pm, 21st March 2012

I shall speak to my Amendment 88, which is part of this group. It may help save your Lordships a little time. I am grateful to my noble friend for the statement that he has just made. As I see it, the position is quite clear: the Government are not going to use this Bill as a vehicle.

I tabled my amendment on 13 September, six months ago. Since then, quite a lot has happened. I tabled it because I thought we needed to resolve once and for all the question of whether Scotland should remain part of the United Kingdom, and I thought that the First Minister would use his period in office to drive a wedge between Scotland and the United Kingdom. Nothing that I have seen in the past six months has done anything other than to consolidate that view. It is therefore very important that we get this matter settled, that we concentrate on whether Scotland wishes to remain part of the United Kingdom, and that issues of devo-max and the rest are kept to one side while we do that.

I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Reid, who intervened twice while the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, was introducing his amendment to point out that devo-max means creating a federal parliament and an English parliament. He is absolutely right to say that that would need to be subject to approval by the rest of the United Kingdom.

We are concentrating here on how to get the Scottish question resolved one way or the other. Seeing how the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, has suddenly started speaking to a script, I suspect that there is probably a degree of agreement between the Front Benches on the way forward on this. I hope there is. The noble Lord, Lord Browne, shakes his head, but the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, was certainly speaking to a script, although after three pages we returned to normal service. I suspect that the three pages may very well reflect the view of the Opposition, but we will hear from the noble Lord, Lord Browne, in due course.

The point is that there is a consensus in this House that we need to have a referendum; it needs to have one question-