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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 Neil Findlay Neil Findlay Labour

You can do that, but my constituents want to know where the initiative in the Parliament is when ministers in the Parliament break the law more than 100,000 times. We are seeing a new referendum initiative. Where is the new initiative to hold to account ministers who break the law? Where are initiatives coming forward in the Parliament to address drug deaths? We have not even had a debate about drug deaths, never mind a referendum or a citizens assembly—we have had none of that. There are no new initiatives coming forward to address one of the biggest crises that we have, but we want to create new legislation on referendums for something that might never happen. We know that the only thing that the SNP wants to happen is Mr Russell to have his day taking through a bill that paves the way for an independence referendum.

Where is the opportunity for a citizens initiative or a referendum on the Government’s failing education policy? That is supposed to be the Government’s top priority. There is no opportunity for us to hold the Government to account via a referendum or a citizens initiative. As we have already heard today, the Government has not had an education debate for two years. Where is our ability to hold the Government to account?

If the bill proceeds, I will look to lodge amendments on having a third option or additional options on ballot papers for any future referendum and on different citizens initiatives that will hold the Government to account when it breaks the law 100,000 times. If all that we have is more binary referendum choices, we will create more divided and more depressing politics.

I adopt the default principle that powers should be devolved to the lowest level unless there is an overwhelming or rational reason not to do so. I believe that that is a sound principle and that we can debate each topic that comes forward and deliver power to the most appropriate level. That is what I believe in, but that debate is for another time.

The bill should not deflect us from dealing with the immediate issues that our people face. People are out there lying in doorways and shivering on the street. I think that, today, people will rightly look at this place and wonder what relevance it has to their lives.