Scottish independence: Salmond accused of tossing aside 26,000 views on independence
ALEX Salmond is under fresh pressure to publish the results of the referendum consultation just days before he is expected to agree a deal with David Cameron on how the independence vote will be conducted.
• Alex Salmond expected to sign agreement on referendum vote with David Cameron on Monday
• Labour accuse First Minister of ignoring public responses to consultation
The First Minister was accused of wanting to make a “deal behind closed doors” with Mr Cameron on Monday and of ignoring the 26,000 responses to the referendum consultation.
The row came as former Liberal leader Lord Steel warned that Scottish independence would be an “unnecessary leap in the dark” during a House of Lords debate on the potential break-up of the United Kingdom yesterday.
Lord Steel, a former Scottish Parliament presiding officer, claimed that the lead-up to the referendum in 2014 was an “unsettling, long drawn-out, boring process”.
Scottish Labour’s external affairs spokeswoman Patricia Ferguson said that the views of Scots who responded to the consultation were being “thrown to one side” as the SNP leader is expected to sign-off the agreement with the Prime Minister.
The deal to transfer power from Westminster to Holyrood to hold the referendum is expected to include an agreement for a single yes or no question on independence in 2014 and to extend the vote to 16 and 17-year-olds.
Ms Ferguson said: “I’m pleased that the discussions over process about the referendum will shortly be resolved, allowing the focus to move to the substantive issues of separation.
“However, this deal behind closed doors will be made without any reference to the much-hailed 26,000 responses from Scots to the Scottish Government’s own consultation.
“What was the point of thousands of Scots and Scottish civic society spending time and effort contributing to what they thought was a listening government when their views are thrown to one side by the SNP?”
Ms Ferguson added: “This is treating the consultation with contempt.”
The SNP Government promised that the tens of thousands of consultation responses, which are being independently verified, would be published later this month.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We will publish the analysis of the referendum consultation by the end of this month.
“The referendum consultation received over 26,000 responses, one of the highest ever received, and has been put out to independent analysis which has inevitably taken some time to complete.”
Lord Steel claimed that one “benefit” of the lengthy run-up to the referendum was helping to boost support for the Union, as he talked about how a recent opinion poll showed that many people who were previously undecided had moved to the “no camp” as the process continued.
“So the effect of this long drawn-out debate has been to focus the public mind on the consequences of independence and the potential risk has diminished,” he said.
He said that this was not surprising once people looked at the cost of independence and the impact on welfare and defence.
“Most people have come round to the view that this would be a great and unnecessary leap in the dark,” he said.
It was better to build on “what we already have” and make it more coherent, he said.
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Thursday 23 May 2013
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