Holyrood Committee welcomes Scottish Government commitment to introduce primary legislation for constitutional referendums

20.11.2019

A Holyrood Committee has welcomed confirmation from the Scottish Government that it will introduce primary legislation to allow any future referendum on independence to take place.

In its stage 1 report on the Referendums (Scotland) Bill, the Delegated Powers and Law Reform (DPLR) Committee recommended that primary legislation should normally be used to trigger referendums on issues of national significance, such as constitutional or moral questions. This differed from the Bill’s proposed approach of using secondary legislation to trigger any future referendum.

The Committee also suggested that the Electoral Commission should be given the opportunity to consider and respond to any possible referendum question.

In a letter to the Committee, Cabinet Secretary for Constitutional Relations, Michael Russell MSP, confirmed that the Scottish Government is of the view that primary legislation should normally be used to trigger a referendum and, in particular, that a Bill would be “appropriate” in the event of an independence referendum.

The Scottish Government also accepted that it should look at the issue of question testing again in the light of the evidence received by the Finance and Constitution Committee, the lead committee for the Bill, which aims to create a framework for all future referendums in Scotland.

The Scottish Government will bring forward further details of its approach on these issues before Stage 2.

Graham Simpson MSP, DPLR Committee Convener, said: “This Committee’s report made clear that this Bill’s provisions on the level of parliamentary scrutiny required for referendums on issues of such national importance, such as constitutional or moral questions, were insufficient.

“We are therefore pleased that the Scottish Government has agreed that primary legislation should be used for constitutional issues such as any future referendum on Scottish independence, to allow that the Scottish Parliament to carry out the appropriate scrutiny.”

The letter can be read in full here.

Background

The Referendums (Scotland) Bill was introduced by the Cabinet Secretary for Government Business and Constitutional Relations Michael Russell MSP, on 28 May 2019.

The remit of the Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee is to consider whether proposed delegated powers in the Bill are appropriate and report to the lead committee on those provisions. The committee’s report on the Bill was published on 17 September 2019.

The Finance and Constitution Committee, the lead committee for the Bill, published its stage 1 report on the Bill on 31 October 2019.

To learn more about the work of the Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee go to the Scottish Parliament website.

 

 

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