A Scottish Government bill laying out a framework for future referendums was passed in the Scottish Parliament last night, despite opposition parties claiming it is just a method of delivering a second independence vote.
The bill passed by 68 votes to 54, with two abstensions, Scottish Labour’s Neil Findlay and Monica Lennon, two MSPs who have urged their party to shift its position on a second referendum on independence.
Constitutional relations secretary Mike Russell told MSPs: “It’s important that rules for any referendums held on devolved matters are specifically suited to Scotland and debated and agreed in this parliament. This bill addressed a specific gap in the devolved legislative landscape. The purpose of the bill is to put in place a standing framework of conduct and campaign rules.”
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But Tory constitutional relations spokesman Adam Tomkins and Labour constitution spokesman Alex Rowley both argued the provisions in the bill around the questions used in referendums were an attempt to “rig” any future vote by the SNP.
The legislation allows for questions that have been approved by the Electoral Commission to be used again within the parliamentary term.
Mr Tomkins said: “The SNP sometimes want to pretend that this is a framework bill for a referendum in general ... we all know that it isn’t.
“It’s a paving bill for a second referendum.”
Labour’s Alex Rowley said his party could not support the bill, as it would “pave the way for an independence referendum to take place next year”, and Liberal Democrat Mike Rumbles branded the bill a “Nationalist charade” and claimed:
“The two Nationalist parties have fixed the terms of this bill for their own partisan advantage.”