When should we hold the referendum?

An area where there is still difference of opinion between the UK and Scottish governments is the timing of the referendum. Recently Michael Moore and David Mundell, ministers in the UK government’s Scotland Office, said publicly that a referendum on whether Scotland remains part of the UK could be held as early as autumn 2013.

This puts them at odds with Alex Salmond who has clearly said in his statement to Parliament and at a media conference that the Scottish Government will hold the referendum in autumn 2014. Even the Sun on Sunday newspaper had an exclusive that it will be held on a Saturday in October 2014.

This leads One Dynamic Nation to question why the SNP wants to wait and hold the referendum in two years time. The SNP will say they want to wait for a few years to ensure “the fullest possible debate” but this being their fourth consultation on this subject and their third draft Bill we question this approach.

The Nationalists have pointed to the time taken to properly analyse the results of the current consultations but the current Scottish Government consultation finishes in May (the UK Government’s has already finished) giving plenty of time to analyse responses, a Bill to be produced and for the UK Government to devolve the Section 30 Order before the end of this year.

The SNP claim that this desire for an extended consultation period is also in line with commitments they made during the 2011 election campaign. In other words they said they would bring forward a Referendum Bill in time for the referendum to be held in the second half of the current session of the Scottish Parliament.

However as Moore and Mundell rightly point out in 2009, the SNP wanted to hold the referendum in 2010. In 2010, they wanted to hold it “as soon as possible” and in the SNP manifesto for the 2010 UK Parliament elections; they stated that “we are taking forward a Referendum Bill in the Scottish Parliament this year [2010]”.

So again the question “why the delay”?

Another argument is that an extended timetable allows for full public and parliamentary debate of the referendum proposals. Also European elections and sporting events which are scheduled in spring and summer 2014 may conflict.

Experience from the referendum on the AV voting system has shown that a referendum can be successfully delivered within a year, from the introduction of legislation, through to the holding of the poll. And the process for the AV referendum certainly gave enough time for full public and parliamentary debate and consideration.

Also businesses in Scotland have consistently called for an end to the uncertainty. This is currently stifling investment in Scotland and means that long term strategic planning cannot be made by either companies or investors. This week the whisky industry in Scotland joined the growing number of voices asking for a decision sooner than later

Recent polls have certainly indicated that people think we should get on with the referendum and hold it before 2014. So let’s get on with it!

One Dynamic Nation agrees with the Scotland Office and believes that a fair and legal referendum can be held within a year and as soon as autumn 2013. This gives enough time to full public and parliamentary debate and enough time for the Bill to pass through the Scottish Parliament and enough time for the Section 30 order to be devolved. It also means we avoid conflicts with any election and the Commonwealth Games in 2014!