Holyrood’s Finance and Constitution Committee says it supports the policy objectives of the Referendums (Scotland) Bill provided that the Bill is amended to reflect the weight of evidence it has received.
In its unanimous Stage 1 report published today, the committee’s recommendations include that:
• the Bill be amended so that referendums on constitutional issues must require primary legislation, and that all other referendums will ordinarily require primary legislation; and that
• the Cabinet Secretary [for Government Business & Constitutional Relations] recognises the weight of evidence in favour of the Electoral Commission testing a previously used referendum question and must come to an agreement based on this evidence with the Electoral Commission prior to Stage 2.
Finance & Constitution Committee Convener Bruce Crawford MSP said:
“Our committee supports the policy objective of the Bill - to put in place a generic framework for referendums - on the basis that the Bill is amended to reflect the weight of evidence we received and have set out in our report.”
Mr Crawford added:
“We welcome the approach taken by the Cabinet Secretary in his oral evidence to our committee where he indicated that he is “open to alternative approaches to all aspects of the Bill” and how it can be improved.
“Our recommendations are intentionally framed to inform an open discussion on how the Bill can be improved based on the substantial evidence received.”
The stage 1 parliamentary report also says:
• The committee welcomes the Cabinet Secretary’s openness to consideration of having a minimum regulated referendum period in the Bill and recommends that it should be amended to include a minimum period of 10 weeks.
• The committee does not support the use of thresholds other than a simple majority [in establishing the success of a referendum].
Find the committee’s full report here.