Belfast Telegraph

Friday 11 July 2014

UK 'won't block Scots referendum'

Scottish Secretary Michael Moore said the UK Government will not block a referendum on Scottish independence

Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore has said the UK Government will not obstruct or pre-empt a referendum on Scottish independence.

The Liberal Democrat MP also said his party "would have to be tone deaf" to miss the point that the Westminster coalition had a bearing on their heavy defeat in Scotland.

Lib Dem disaffection was a strong factor in the SNP's landslide victory which has cleared the way for an independence referendum in the latter part of the new Scottish Parliament.

Mr Moore said: "As a UK Government we will not be putting obstacles in the way of any referendum. When we get to the point of a referendum actually taking place, as a Liberal Democrat I will obviously campaign against it."

Scottish Conservative deputy leader Murdo Fraser said the UK government should give "very serious consideration" to launching its own referendum on the future of the UK constitution to prevent a "damaging" long-running debate.

However, Mr Moore said: "We will not be bringing forward a referendum ourselves, it's entirely a matter for the Scottish Government." He added: "We're not going to be raising any constitutional questions about the rights or wrongs of holding a referendum on this particular issue. How it's actually structured will need to comply with the law to avoid challenge."

One of Mr Moore's predecessors, Lord Michael Forsyth, the last Conservative secretary of state for Scotland, is reportedly set to lodge an amendment to the Scotland Bill that could enable Westminster to call an independence referendum at a date of its own choosing.

Quoted in the Scottish Mail on Sunday newspaper, Lord Forsyth said: "What we have had is an election campaign where Alex Salmond has promised sweeties to everyone who has had a vote. There was almost no discussion of how we get out of the financial mess we are in or how all the of these promises, such as a council tax freeze, are going to be funded.

"Of course, Mr Salmond will be unable to deliver all this and will blame it all on Westminster and stock up resentment, with a view to having a referendum at a suitably late stage. When the Scotland Bill comes to the House of Lords quite shortly, I will put forward an amendment for a referendum on independence with a view to having a vote in the autumn."

Mr Forsyth reportedly discussed his plans with Prime Minister David Cameron. He added: "Mr Cameron said he has a respect agenda towards Scotland. Well, Scotland appears to have voted for the Nationalists and we need to give Scotland a chance to make clear where it stands on the union."