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Referendums (Scotland) Bill

– in the Scottish Parliament on 19th December 2019.

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Photo of Adam Tomkins Adam Tomkins Conservative

7. To ask the Scottish Government what discussions it has had with the Electoral Commission since the Referendums (Scotland) Bill completed stage 2. (S5O-03947)

Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party

As I have indicated previously, there have been multiple, constructive discussions between the Scottish Government and the Electoral Commission about the bill in recent months. Those conversations have continued since stage 2. I have lodged at stage 3, which will take place this afternoon, amendments that build on those discussions with the Electoral Commission.

Photo of Adam Tomkins Adam Tomkins Conservative

Not only is the cabinet secretary seeking to impose on Scotland a second independence referendum that Scots do not want, but he is seeking to rig its rules by bypassing the critical role of the Electoral Commission in its independent testing of any referendum question.

In a unanimous report, this Parliament’s Finance and Constitution Committee made it clear that that is completely unacceptable and that the cabinet secretary must seek the agreement of the Electoral Commission on a way forward. Yet, this week, the Electoral Commission has said that no such agreement has been reached. The Electoral Commission says that it should be required by law to reassess any referendum question. Why does the cabinet secretary not agree?

Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party

The member is getting his retaliation in early, before he is defeated on the matter this afternoon when the Parliament votes on it. [

Interruption

.] He will be defeated, because he has misled us on what the Electoral Commission says. The Electoral Commission says in its briefing that it is “satisfied” with the amendments that I have lodged. That position and the position that Mr Tomkins has taken are not compatible.

We will have the debate this afternoon. I hope that, by then, Mr Tomkins will have read the Electoral Commission’s recommendations and that, in those circumstances, he will not repeat the error that he fell into just now.