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Scotland Bill — Committee (5th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:45 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) 8:45 pm, 21st March 2012

I indicated that we are not generally disposed to supporting the idea of a threshold. My noble friend mentioned the Cunningham amendment, which related to a classic example of a referendum that many of us did not consider, at the end of the day, to be fair. Heaven forbid that we should ever find ourselves in a position whereby, after a referendum on independence, 30 years later one side or the other cries "foul"-with some justification. That is why the oversight of the Electoral Commission is very important.

The noble Lord, Lord Browne, and my noble friend Lord Forsyth raised a point about timing to which I should like to respond. I was asked what the timetable would be. We should press on with this matter very early indeed. We should be pressing for early engagement with the Scottish Government immediately after the close of their consultation. There have already been preliminary discussions between my right honourable friend the Secretary of State and the First Minister-indeed, the Prime Minister met the First Minister. I am sure that they will receive representations. If the Scottish Ministers think that independence is such a wonderful thing, why do they want a delay in getting it? This is a matter on which we should seek to make substantive and early progress to allow their referendum to conclude.

I will take one further intervention before I make my final point in response to the noble Lord, Lord Empey, and my noble friend Lord Forsyth.