Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Referendum on Scottish Independence — [Mr Adrian Bailey in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 6:29 pm on 13th November 2017.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Colin Clark Colin Clark Conservative, Gordon 6:29 pm, 13th November 2017

If the hon. Gentleman lets me carry on, I will get to the explanation.

As Ian Murray said, if the Scottish Government had won a majority, they would have called a referendum. That is how the first Scottish independence referendum was called in 2011. Referendums have huge political authority because they are direct expressions of public opinion. If we disagree with the outcome of a referendum, our immediate response should not be to call for another. We must respect a referendum’s democratic legitimacy, or we risk undermining the legitimacy of our tested system of careful consideration by elected Members with periodic elections by an emancipated electorate. To hold another referendum on Scottish independence so soon after the original would risk undermining the constitutional position of referendums in our society. It would also undermine the Scottish public, who clearly voted against independence.

In an uncodified system such as ours with no set precedent for a referendum, we must take care of the frequency with which we hold them. Holding multiple referendums on the same issue in a short space of time would bring into question their ability to settle issues decisively. It would also pose the question whether they are simply a precursor to further referendums, which we should avidly avoid.

Alan Brown suggests that we are afraid of referendums. He should realise that his party devalues referendums, and democracy, by calling for another referendum so soon after the 2014 result. We should leave the process not to polls, which are likely to fluctuate, but to the democratic will of the people. That will ensure the ultimate legitimacy of referendums.

Recently, in my constituency of Gordon, a council by-election had to be called because somebody got elected to this House. A Conservative councillor was returned with 48% of the votes, and 65% of voters voted for Unionist parties. The Scottish Government clearly do not have the same mandate as in 2011. Since then, they have seen a no vote in the first independence referendum and a drop in their share of MSPs elected to Holyrood. In fact, the most recent election saw the emergence of a strong opposition: my 11 colleagues— 12, including the Secretary of State—and me. The issue has been settled decisively, so I ask both Parliaments and the SNP to respect the will of both Houses and respect the referendum.