Monday, 22 October 2012

A referendum made in Scotland

Dear Fraser,

As you will be aware, Scotland's two governments have reached an agreement that will deliver a legal, fair and decisive referendum on whether Scotland stays within the UK family or goes its own separate way. 

The deal was negotiated between myself and the Deputy First Minister over a period of weeks, and we, the Prime Minister and First Minister signed it in Edinburgh earlier this week. It ensures that the referendum is made in Scotland - as both sides wanted it to be.

The agreement outlines that the referendum must have single question, on the issue of independence, held by the end of 2014.  The question setting and finance rules will be determined by the Scottish Parliament, subject to the same rules - including the role of the Electoral Commission - that are used in UK-run referendums. On the franchise, we have agreed not to stop the Scottish Government enfranchising 16 and 17 year olds as they have done in previous elections for local health boards and the Crofting Commission.  Liberal Democrats would of course prefer to see the franchise extended for all referendums and elections and not on a one-off basis, but we respect that there is no consensus for doing that at the Westminster level.

Our agreement on a single question, means that there will be no second question on so-called ‘devo-max’ or more powers for Scotland. This is because independence and devolving more powers to Scotland are two completely separate issues: devolution means strengthening Scotland within the UK whereas independence means taking Scotland out of the UK forever.

Devolution is an ongoing and live process and as a Liberal Democrat I was extremely proud to further this process by piloting the Scotland Act through Parliament which will see the largest transfer of financial powers to Scotland since the creation of the UK. Beyond this, as a party, we remain committed to achieving home rule for Scotland.  Just this week, our Home and Community Rule Commission, set up by Willie Rennie and chaired by Ming Campbell, published its proposals on how we can make this happen.  As always, the Scottish Liberal Democrats are leading the debate on the future of devolution in Scotland.

But before we devolve more powers we need to settle the separate issue of independence.  This is the most important political decision that Scots will be asked to take: do we stay in our United Kingdom or do we leave forever?  I look forward to working with you to make the positive case for Scotland's ongoing place in the UK family and I firmly believe that Scots will vote for that future.  We are better, stronger and safer together.

Best wishes,

Michael Moore MP
Secretary of State for Scotland