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Lord Sewel: We all know that this group of amendments seeks to put the independence option on the ballot paper. It is dressed up in slightly different words in the various amendments but, in essence, that is what the grouping is all about. The simple, fundamental point is that independence for Scotland and Wales is not Her Majesty's Government's policy. The referendum is about testing support for the Government's policy on devolution--no more, no less. It is not an opinion poll.
Let us again go over the facts. All government spokesmen have made it abundantly clear that government policy is devolution within the Union. That is the road down which we are going. That is the policy we feel confident in putting to the people of Scotland. We have no confidence in putting the option of independence to the people of Scotland. It would be a misguided policy. It would be irresponsible to have the question of independence on a ballot paper--a ballot paper which would be structured in the context of the debate on devolution. Independence would just be something tagged on at the end. That is not a sane and responsible way of tackling the problem.
As we have made clear, our position is that it is devolution within the Union. That is the way we shall go and that is the proposal that we shall put before the people. We will put our proposals to the people of Scotland on the basis of them being spelt out in the White Paper, which we all know will be published well ahead of the referendum. We do not see the referendum as being about holding an opinion poll; it is about seeking endorsement of a specific policy.
Holding an opinion poll will tell us nothing that we do not know already. We know exactly the views of the people of Scotland on independence. They spoke most recently in the general election; the independence option was rejected and the devolution option was supported. In the run up to that election, the leading spokesmen of the party opposite made the point that we as an opposition were somehow frightened to put our proposals on devolution in front of the Scottish people because, as the then Secretary of State for Scotland claimed, we feared that we did not have the support of the people. The referendum is about nailing the argument that the people of Scotland do not support the policy of devolution.
It would be absolutely clear what advice and guidance the Government would receive if, as I expect, the outcome of the referendum is, "Yes, yes". The advice and guidance is simple; the people of Scotland want the scheme and they will get the scheme that we propose--
Lord Sewel: It is not my job to give advice to members of another party. It is up to members of all political parties to see our proposals and decide whether they wish to support them. There will be some members of the
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I am grateful. I shall not ask the noble Lord what his advice to Conservatives would be because he has already given it. However, he is unwilling to give it to the Scottish Nationalists. Is he therefore advising Scottish Nationalists to vote, "Yes, yes"?
Lord Sewel: I am advising the electorate of Scotland to read the White Paper. If it contains a set of proposals which they can support they should vote for it, whether they belong to the Labour Party, the Conservative Party, the Liberal Democratic Party or the Scottish National Party. I shall certainly not say to a member of any party, "Don't vote yes in the referendum if you happen to belong to a particular party". It is up to everyone to reach a judgment on the merits of the case laid out in the White Paper. When, on that basis, the people of Scotland have decided, we will have the advice and guidance that we seek. We will have a clear endorsement from the people of Scotland for the proposals that we are advocating. We are not advocating independence. We are not having independence on the ballot paper because the people of Scotland have spoken already on the issue of independence and have rejected it decisively.
The Earl of Onslow: If they have rejected it decisively, why cannot it be on the ballot paper? This matter is terribly important. The Government are proposing a limited choice on a constitutional issue. It is a choice which has terrible downsides to it which the Government are determined not to recognise. Therefore, the people should be asked also on the ballot paper whether they want independence. Of course we shall not press this matter to a vote but I do not understand why the Government cannot take this point.
Lord Rowallan: I accept totally what has been said about the last election. At that time, we discovered how many votes the Labour Party, the SNP, the Conservative Party and the Scottish Liberals received. But we did not discover from that how many people within each of those parties voted for them for reasons other than devolution and how many voted for them because of the devolution proposal. That is the difference and that is why we need to have those answers.
Lord Sewel: That is exactly why we are having a referendum--to deal with that argument about the extent of support for devolution. We are not having independence on the ballot paper because that is not government policy. The reason for the referendum is to test popular support for the Government's policy.
Baroness Carnegy of Lour: I do not wish to prolong this discussion but this issue is extremely important. It may be that the people of Scotland vote "Yes" in the referendum and it is known that a majority has been obtained only because of the votes of those who wish to
Lord Sewel: I am not a great advocate of psychological counselling so I shall not go down the path of looking into the minds, motives and inner workings of whether people have voted "yes" because they wanted independence or not. It is a very simple proposition: do you or do you not agree with the proposals contained in the White Paper? Nothing could be simpler.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: The Minister has dug himself into a hole which is even deeper than the one into which I might have been able to dig him if I had been trying. I have read the Scottish press over the past few weeks. The Labour Party has been extremely keen to try to recruit the Scottish National Party to this particular cause and it has even been keen to try to recruit the Conservative Party to it. It is almost as though it does not matter what you think. It is now the conventional wisdom; the establishment has decreed it; and forget about democracy--we should all be on the same side. It seems a bit daft to hold a referendum and to try to get everybody on the same side so that there is no opposition.
But be that as it may, it is definitely true that the Labour Party has been attempting either directly or through its front organisation--the Constitutional Convention--to persuade the Scottish National Party to join in the campaign. I do not blame the Labour Party for that at all. But the fact is that the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, seemed to be badly briefed by the Labour Party--and I am sure that it is not the government machine because that takes no part in such matters--about what it has been trying to do over the past many weeks. It has been trying to recruit the Scottish National Party to the "Yes, yes" campaign. I have no argument with that and it can do that if it likes. But you cannot differentiate between those people who vote "Yes, yes" and who are firmly Unionist, like the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, and the Secretary of State for Scotland, Mr. Dewar, and those who vote "Yes, yes" like Mr. Alex Salmond--to pluck a name out of the air--who wish to use this as the way to independence and who do not believe in devolution for a single second.
Lord Mackie of Benshie: I have seen a couple of polls which show that when the Scottish National Party was asked whether it preferred devolution or independence, about 30 per cent. voted for devolution.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: That is right. So why not let them vote? The Scottish National Party voting by intention on the referendum question is very significantly in favour of the "Yeses". In fact, 94 per cent. of SNP voters will vote "Yes". That is bigger than any other party's vote for the "Yes". So the bulk of SNP voters will quite clearly vote "Yes". They will not do so for devolution; they will do so for independence. Interestingly enough, only 59 per cent. of Liberal Democrats will vote "Yes" and 34 per cent. of them will actually vote "No". Does that not make the representation in this Chamber a little skewed when one considers the speeches that one has heard? Even the
I have to say that the Liberal Democrats are the most split of them all. When it comes to the second question--namely, the tax-raising question--the poor old Liberal Democrats are in their normal position of facing both ways. According to the ICM poll of The Scotsman, 46 per cent. will vote in favour of a tax-raising assembly and 46 will vote against a tax-raising assembly. That seems to be a perfect result for the Liberal Democrat Party. However, that is a little aside into which they tempted me, although with not too much trouble.
I return now to the main point; namely, that we have this amazing disagreement. The noble Lord, Lord Sewel, seems to be totally unprepared to give Scottish nationals any advice on how they should vote, yet everyone who reads the Scottish press knows that both the Labour Party and its front organisation the Scottish Constitutional Convention, are very keen to recruit the SNP to the "Yes, yes" campaign.
The second point to which I wish to return is the dismissive way in which the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, dealt with the question of a three-way referendum. I should have taken note of what he said, but I believe he more or less told us that no one in his right mind could ever propose a three-way referendum. I have to tell him that I have with me a report by Mr. Ian Bruce, a correspondent of the Glasgow Herald, dated 23rd April 1992 reporting on the Scottish Trades Union Congress in Perth. In that report, someone called Donald Dewar--and it may well be a different Donald Dewar for all I know--was actually advocating a "multi-option referendum". Indeed, he said quite clearly that he wanted such a referendum. I do not have to answer any of the questions; indeed, I now find myself in a new position. The question is quite simple: was Donald Dewar wrong then or is he wrong now?
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