Lord Des Browne of Ladyton is former Secretary of State for Scotland and leading for Labour on the Scotland Bill in the House of Lords
Today, in the Lords, we will have the fifth day of Committee of the Scotland Bill. By agreement, the debate will be dominated by the issue of referendums.
Thanks to the forensic, analytical and debating skills of Peers, we will debate almost every possible permutation of referendums, every possible purpose for a referendum and every possible aspect of the process. I am confident however, that when that is over, we will come together in agreement that the only referendum that matters is the one that allows the Scottish people to decide whether Scotland should leave the United Kingdom and become a separate state.
In the words of Professor Tomkins, “The issue is not what Scotland is, but what Scotland should become.”
We owe it to the people of Scotland never to forget that focus. In the meantime, we have an obligation to them to complete the passage of the Scotland Bill and to deliver the promise of Calman and its enhanced powers for the Scottish Parliament. Not only should we be focussed on that objective, but now that the Scottish Government have dropped their opposition to it, we need the Scottish Parliament to move quickly to complete the process of transfer by a legislative consent motion.
This Bill contains significant powers that could be put to use now, or in a short time. Scotland expects the UK Government and the UK Parliament to deliver on its promise and it will not forgive the Scottish Government if it delays that ambition.
Today, the Lords focus is on referendums. The Coalition Government’s responsibility is to deliver the legal framework that will empower the referendum that Scotland expects. And it is to also ensure that the conduct of the referendum meets the highest possible standards of “fairness, transparency and propriety” – as Scotland expects.
I am confident that with the Labour Party in the lead, the Lords will help ensure that outcome. Scotland expects nothing less.