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Referendums (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 7th November 2019.

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Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party

What an unusual debate this has been! Let us stand back for a moment and consider what has been taking place this afternoon. Parliament has been debating a Finance and Constitution Committee report, which I have already strongly welcomed, along with the work of the Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee, which also contributed to it. The report unanimously approved the policy objectives of the bill, but in the debate two of the four parties that are represented on the Finance and Constitution Committee have denounced the bill and said that they can have nothing to do with it. It was, indeed, denounced in ringing terms by the Tory spokesperson who is the deputy convener of that committee.

Moreover, that has happened in circumstances in which I made it clear in my opening statement that I accepted virtually all the recommendations that the committee made, including the most contentious one. I have said that I will do exactly what the committee has asked me to, which is to seek agreement with the Electoral Commission.

What an extraordinary afternoon! What it proves is that the issue is not about the bill—that is absolutely clear. [


.] I was about to quote Professor Tomkins on that point, but I think that his laughter does it.

Mr Tomkins said that it was not about the bill and he was absolutely correct. It is about the fact that some parties in this Parliament have contempt for the democratic views of the Scottish people and will never allow them to be heard. Let me prove that.