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by Adam Clarke - 19:10 on 11 January 2012
Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael has welcomed the announcement that the UK government is willing to offer the Scottish Parliament the legal authority to hold an independence referendum.
In a statement to the House of Commons yesterday, Scottish Secretary Michael Moore warned MPs that the Scottish government does not have the authority to legislate for a referendum at present. However, he indicated that the UK government would take steps to ensure that any referendum is legal and transfer necessary powers to Holyrood for this purpose.
Under existing law the Scottish government does not have the power to legislate on reserved issues such as the constitution.
Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:
‘No one would dispute that a referendum on whether Scotland should remain part of the United Kingdom is inevitable, and has been since May of last year. As Michael Moore said yesterday, that referendum must be clear, decisive and above all else, legal. The SNP won a mandate to govern last May. They did not win a mandate to put themselves above the law.
‘As things stand, any referendum held by the Scottish Parliament would not be binding as the legal powers that would allow a poll to be held are not in place. The Secretary of State made clear that the Scottish government could be given these powers. If they are acting in good faith then they should now engage with Ministers at Westminster to work out how this can best be done.
‘I hope that we can now see progress towards an early resolution of Scotland’s constitutional future. There is nothing to be gained at a time of economic difficulty from delay but there is a lot to be lost. A straightforward question asking whether or not Scotland should be independent is what is required. I hope that once the sound and fury has died down our two governments will work together to deliver that.’
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