Graham Simpson MSP calls for a “rewrite” of the SNP’s Referendums (Scotland) Bill

  • The SNP Scottish government intends to hold a new independence referendum in the second half of 2020
  • The Referendums (Scotland) Bill is viewed by many as a framework for Indyref2
  • According to the Scottish Conservatives, the bill was dealt a “devasting blow” by cross-party committees

Central Scotland – Graham Simpson, MSP for Central Scotland has hit out against the SNP’s Referendums (Scotland) Bill during today’s parliamentary debate after two Scottish parliament committees, one of which Mr. Simpson chairs, have raised their concerns. While First Minister Nicola Sturgeon originally promised the 2014 referendum was “once in a lifetime” and vowed to respect the result, the SNP’s flagship Referendums (Scotland) Bill is viewed by many as the framework for yet another vote on Scottish independence.

“On the face of it, the Referendums (Scotland) Bill is seemingly innocent,” said Graham Simpson MSP. “It’s complete with sections on the franchise, conduct, and campaign rules surrounding Scottish referendums. But on closer examination, the mask slips – it’s all about independence.”

Scottish Parliament’s all-party Finance & Constitution Committee has reviewed the Bill and has threatened to withdraw its support for the outlined policy objectives unless substantial changes are made. One of the committee’s core demands is that the Bill should be amended to involve the impartial oversight of the Electoral Commission in the process of testing any future referendum questions.

“A legal framework for the holding of referendums requires independent oversight which makes the involvement of the Electoral Commission absolutely necessary,” said Mr. Simpson. “The fact that the Electoral Commission is sidelined from the Bill shows evidence that the SNP are playing fast and loose with policies of national importance in their pursuance of Indyref2.”

The Delegated Powers and Law Reform (DPLR) Committee, which Mr. Simpson convenes also said the “one-size-fits-all approach in the Bill does not therefore provide sufficient flexibility to cater for issues of such national significance such as constitutional or moral questions which might be asked in a referendum.” MSP’s have also unanimously recommended that referendums on constitutional issues must require primary legislation, and that all other referendums will ordinarily require primary legislation.

“To suggest that the details of another vote on Scotland’s constitutional future – which we decided on in 2014 – should be rammed through parliament by subordinate legislation is an outrage,” said Mr. Simpson. “Referendum legislation is not one-size-fits-all and based on the thorough reviews from two parliamentary committees, it is evident that this bill requires a heavy rewrite. With the Referendums (Scotland) Bill in its current form, it is clear SNP have their blinkers on with only Scottish independence in sight.”