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Lord Sewel: Very simply, the advice that I would give to the people of Scotland, no matter which party they belong to-- and, indeed, even if they do not belong to any party--and regardless of whether or not they have voted before, is to vote "Yes, yes" in the referendum. That is the advice I would give them because I have confidence in the scheme that we will be proposing to the people of Scotland. As I said, it does not matter which party they come from. I would give the same advice to the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, although I do not believe that he will take it on this occasion. I should add that I do not have to give such advice to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland.

There is something that I would really like to know, although I do not suppose that I will get an answer. If the independence option was put on the ballot paper, as a

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matter of pure speculation is it expected that the argument about independence should be contained within the White Paper?

Lord Sempill: As I spoke to one of the amendments, the answer to my noble friend Lord Sewel is, no. As the noble Lord, Lord Mackay pointed out, it would make sense for us to put in a second option that it is a devolved assembly as laid down by Her Majesty's Government. I believe that that gets round the problem.

Perhaps I may take the attention of my noble friend the Minister for a moment longer to ask a further question. One of the advantages of a multi-option referendum is that the Government have obviously been given a substantial mandate by the people of Scotland to give the Scots a form of government where they can have larger control over their own affairs. It must be of some interest to the Government therefore to understand exactly where the Scots are coming from. If, in a multi-option referendum, nearly 40 per cent. vote for some form of independence, would that not influence the legislation that is likely to be produced in a devolution Bill?

Lord Thomas of Gresford: I hope I may venture into the Scottish scene from a Welsh perspective. It seems to me that the official Opposition regard voters as members of armies who are in some way controlled or owned by political leaders. They talk about voters as Scottish nationalists, Labour supporters and so on, as if they were always within one grouping and always wore the same tabard. What we are talking about are people in Scotland and people in Wales. In Wales the nationalists achieved rather less than 10 per cent. of the vote in the previous election. That was of course less than the Liberal Democrats, and even less than the Conservatives. The vote in Scotland for independence, as expressed in that way, was small. However, one does not regard those who vote for the Welsh nationalists as seeking independence 100 per cent.; there are all sorts of views expressed within that party.

In this referendum one must be as inclusive as possible and draw together as many people as possible behind a "Yes" vote. That is what we are seeking to do in Wales. We do not care how people have voted in the past--even if they have voted for the Conservatives and have now seen the light--so long as they support the principle that the status quo cannot remain and that there must be change. We do not seek the distant scene; one step is enough for us.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale: I am most grateful to all who have taken part in the debate. I say with respect that I found the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, most effective and indeed most moving. I entirely agree that there are three main options ahead: status quo, devolution within the Union, and devolution outside the Union. The only difference between my amendment and my position and that of the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, and my noble friend Lord Sempill, is whether the third question should be expressed or implied. I am inclined to think that they are right and that it should be expressed. Having said that, naturally I shall want to consider the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Rowallan. Perhaps there are more options which ought to be put before the electorate.

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We are going through a severe phase of gesture politics and the gestures are almost always to distract attention from a fudge. The matters we are discussing at the moment embody two of the biggest fudges--the two questions that are being put--because what the Government want is to have a vote approaching the size of that which Hitler achieved in his plebiscite. Therefore they ask two questions that will attract the vote both of the devolutionists who are Unionists and the devolutionists who are anti-Unionist.

The first question is, "Do you want a Scottish parliament?". The answer of the government supporters will be, "Yes, we want a Scottish parliament on the lines that are defined", or, if the noble Lord prefers it, on the lines that the Government will put forward in their White Paper. But they will also receive the support of the Scottish nationalists, who will say, "Yes, we want a parliament but a parliament with plenary powers over all matters affecting Scotland". It is a fudge in order to get a maximum figure in the plebiscite.

The second question is also a fudge: "Do you want to vary taxation?". The Government's case is, "Yes, we want powers to vary the basic rate of income tax", although I think they are having second thoughts about the phrase "basic rate". At any rate, it is income tax. But that is not the way that the Scottish nationalists will interpret it. They say: "Yes, we want to vary customs and excise duties and VAT; we want a customs barrier on the Border". That is the great danger.

The noble Lord, Lord Sewel, who has answered this debate, as so many, with enormous skill, says: "We are having a referendum"--I nearly said "plebiscite" because that is really what it is--"because the Conservatives opposed devolution at the general election and we want to show that they were wrong. We do not find it necessary to put the question of independence on the ballot paper because that was rejected at the general election by the electorate in Scotland". Yet in the very same breath he says: "But so were the Conservatives".

When we find an extremely able Minister arguing in that way we must be filled with suspicion as to the real motive. The real motive is for political advantage, to obtain the maximum government vote on both questions.

However, I said that I would not pursue any of my amendments to a division and I therefore beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 65B:

Page 4, line 18, leave out ("AGREE THAT") and insert ("WANT").

The noble Lord said: I shall be very brief. In the 1979 referendum the question was, "Do you want the provisions of the Scotland Act 1978 to be put into effect?". It is interesting that the questions in this referendum will be, "Do you agree?". I wonder if there is any significant difference. I can see that some people may want the proposition; I can see that others may have been bullied by all the pressure in the media and elsewhere into feeling that they must agree to it. I was going to use this opportunity to point out the ICM poll for The Scotsman

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and the interesting dilemma that the Liberal Democrats were in, but I have already had that opportunity so I can be even briefer than I had intended to be.

The Government ought to explain why they have changed the word from "want", as it was in 1979, to "agree". If they say that it is because of the difference between a pre-legislative referendum and a post-legislative referendum, I must say to them that I would prefer the post-legislative referendum and the simple question "Do you want?". That seems to me a much more active question than "Do you agree to?", which is the kind of thing that a salesman asks you when he tries to sell you something that you do not really want but perhaps you do not really not want; whereas to ask, "Do you want this?" is a much more positive statement, which, I suspect, would probably get a slightly different answer than the softer question, "Do you agree?". Maybe I am too suspicious about the Government's use of terminology. However, perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, can explain the change. I beg to move.

Lord Sewel: I wonder whether a post-legislative referendum would have the independence option as well--but that is another matter. As indicated by the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, the amendment would change the wording from "I agree" to "I want". I have to admit that we puzzled and worried over this point for some time. We wondered what it was all about. The noble Lord's intentions are usually admirably clear, even though I rarely find myself agreeing with them. Clarity is one of his great strengths. On this occasion, we were completely bemused by the argument of why "agree" should go out and "want" should come in.

I take the amendment at face value and assume that the noble Lord seeks quite legitimately to probe the reasoning behind the way in which the ballot papers are constructed. I feel that that is what is behind the amendment. Therefore, it may help if I explain why we settled on the wording on the ballot paper.

Let me say at the outset that this is an important point. The wording of all questions is very important. I spent well over 20 years of my life devising opinion questionnaires on all kinds of social and political issues. I am very well aware of how changing a few words can easily help, if not determine, the outcome. It helps to determine the outcome. It is important to take expert advice on the wording of questions, and we did so. We took it from the returning officers, the Association of Electoral Administrators, specifically on how to make the questions fair, clear and unambiguous. I am pleased to say that the general reaction to the ballot papers suggests that we have it right, although I accept that, at the end of the day, one has to reach one's own judgment on these matters.

We firmly believe our judgment to be right. All reputable polling firms devising opinion questions adopt the construction "I agree" and not "I want" because it has been found over the years that "I agree" is a much better way of getting the underlying opinion construct. We took advice, knowing this to be an important matter, and we have the support of independent practitioners that our proposal is the right way forward.

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As I said when we debated earlier the tax varying question, it is important that the proposition is put at the level of principle. I accept that the amendment is consistent with that notion. I also made clear that it is the combination of the proposition on the ballot paper and the details set out in the White Paper which together produce the clarity that we seek. That is a very important factor because all the questions on the ballot paper are phrased in terms of agreeing to the Government's proposals contained in the White Papers. That would be lost under the rather crude "I want" construction. It would not refer back and embed the answer in the Government's proposals in the White Paper. On the basis of that clarification, I hope the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

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