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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 Jenny Gilruth Jenny Gilruth Scottish National Party

I am coming on to address that point.

There is some evidence to substantiate that point. The 2012 social studies curriculum impact report identified that 20 per cent of Scottish secondary schools did not deliver modern studies via a subject specialist. That means that, up to a certain level, they might deliver it via a history or geography teacher.

Mr Findlay is correct. The teaching of modern studies will be important if we have another referendum, because the proposed franchise will be based on the one that is used for local government and Scottish Parliament elections, which includes EU citizens and 16 and 17-year-olds. I hope that the Education and Skills Committee picks up the issue as the bill progresses. We need to ensure that the next generation gets the knowledge, understanding and skills that modern studies develops, which will allow young people to identify bias and exaggeration, for example, and make an informed choice when they vote. In the era of fake news, the pivotal role of modern studies in doing that has become even more apparent.

The policy objective of the bill is to

“ensure that future referendums on matters that are within the competence of the Scottish Parliament maintain the high standards achieved by the referendum on Scottish independence in 2014.”

The 2014 referendum is often lauded as the gold standard of referenda. There was, for the most part, consensual debate, discussion and a white paper—like it or not. Up and down the country, whether people were yes or no, they became engaged in the political process in their droves. We secured the highest ever voting turn-out in the British isles, with 84.5 per cent of those who were registered to vote doing so.

We need only consider the situation in Catalonia to reflect on why the bill is so vital. Whether you were yes or no in 2014, no honest democrat accepts the political persecution of those who support Catalonian independence as just. The former vice-president of Catalonia was sentenced to 13 years in prison, the former speaker of the Catalan Parliament was sentenced—