Referendum Bill

First Minister's Question Time – in the Scottish Parliament at 12:00 pm on 1st July 2010.

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Photo of Pauline McNeill Pauline McNeill Labour 12:00 pm, 1st July 2010

To ask the First Minister whether the Scottish Government will abandon its plans for the introduction of a referendum bill. (S3F-2525)

Photo of Pauline McNeill Pauline McNeill Labour

Why has it taken the First Minister so long to concede that independence is no longer the centre of gravity for Scotland's future? If he had not ignored the majority of Scots, who consistently reject independence, we would not have wasted three years of precious parliamentary time. Does the First Minister think that Scots are fooled by the sidestep to fiscal responsibility—a different version of independence? Scots have noted that he said that the second aim of the SNP is to further the interests of Scotland.

Out of respect for Parliament, when will he give it the details of his plans? Does he not think that independence is now an irrelevance? It is time to move forward. He should abandon his plans. His deadline has already passed. When will he see sense?

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond First Minister of Scotland, Leader, Scottish National Party

Pauline McNeill should have listened to my short and succinct answer to her first question before reading out her second one. I believe that the centre of gravity in Scottish politics is moving towards independence and I am happy to repeat that position.

I do not agree with Pauline McNeill that fiscal responsibility and independence are one and the same thing. If that were the case, Campbell Christie, the former general secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress, would not currently be speaking up so strongly for fiscal responsibility. I do not think that, as yet, Campbell Christie is a convert to independence.

On the timetable for the bill coming before Parliament, for a number of reasons I am keen to shadow closely the commitment to hold a referendum in Wales in the spring of next year. As I understand it, that proposal has been put forward by the coalition Government in Wales and endorsed by the new coalition Government in London. I look forward enormously to hearing the Labour Party's convoluted explanations for why it is prepared to give the people of Wales a say in their future while simultaneously denying that to the people of Scotland.

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

Is the First Minister aware that the Electoral Commission has made it known that there should be six months between any such referendum bill receiving royal assent and an actual referendum? Does he accept that, after three years of delay and a failure to bring such a bill to the Parliament, he has run out of time for a referendum to take place in the current session of Parliament?

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond First Minister of Scotland, Leader, Scottish National Party

No. Mike Rumbles should have listened to my last answer to Pauline McNeill. If the Liberal Democrats at Westminster were following that guidance from the Electoral Commission, they would not have put forward the proposal to hold a referendum in Wales in the spring. I have heard some extraordinary arguments from Mike Rumbles in my time, but if the Liberal Democrats are prepared to give the people of Wales the opportunity to choose their own future in the spring, does he want to deny the same privilege to the people of Scotland?