COMMONS

Unanswered questions on separation set out in new report

15 February 2012

The Scottish Affairs Committee sets out a range of questions that must be answered before the people of Scotland can properly consider any proposed question of separation.

Comment from the Chair

Ian Davidson MP, Chair of the Committee, said:

"The big question about such an unknown quantity as separation is the terms of the "divorce settlement"; how resources, rights and responsibilities will be broken up.

The responses we've had clearly show that there is confusion and concern about this, but also that you only need to scratch the surface to reveal how many complex questions there are; across banking, pensions, currency, national defences - and many more personal things.

Questions that may seem trivial at first actually show just how this issue permeates through every aspect of life: from the television you watch to how you travel round the world.

The purpose of this inquiry is to set out from the start some of those questions and begin to explore their answers, with the aim of helping to make this process as clear and fair as possible.

You cannot ask a big question about separation – however you construct it – without first asking and answering all these questions about how it will affect every aspect of every life, in Scotland and the UK as a whole. There are also questions here for other select committees, and we are aware that some may conduct their own inquiries.

We will be holding a series of evidence sessions on the key themes raised in this report, and will be led by the evidence as new questions come up.

We are calling on the Secretary of State for Scotland to take responsibility for co-ordinating the responses across government, and to work closely with us to provide the factual, unbiased information that is required for this process to be fair and transparent and achieve a positive result for the people of Scotland.

In addition to this work we are doing, we also expect those who support the break-up of Britain to explain the consequences for the jobs and lives of ordinary Scots."

Main areas

The report states the six main areas where Secretary of State for Scotland Rt Hon Michael Moore has identified clarification is required:

  1. Bank regulation
  2. Pension payments
  3. The national currency
  4. Membership of international organisations
  5. Scotland's defences
  6. Costs of Separation

The Committee asked members of the public to submit their questions on what matters need to be clarified on these very broad themes, and what additional questions need to be resolved. In addition the Daily Record launched a campaign in support of the inquiry and its readers have also submitted a series of questions. All the questions received so far are published with this report, and will form the basis of the inquiry.

The Committee says that while the list of questions its sets out in the report is by no means exhaustive, it indicates the scale and complexity of the issues which need to be resolved.

Many relate to specific policy areas where the answers would most likely vary according to which political party or parties formed a Government in a separate Scotland. While it is fair to raise these questions - they will be crucial to voters in determining which party they might vote for in any Scottish General Election post-separation – the Committee says the main structural and institutional issues, which will form the constitutional architecture of a post-separation Scotland, are more pressing in terms of enabling the electorate to make a choice on how they would vote in a referendum on Separation. It is these questions that will be the focus for the Committee.

Recommendations

The Committee recommends that as a matter of urgency, the Secretary of State for Scotland:

  1. takes responsibility for clarifying the UK Government's position on appropriate matters, by co-ordinating work across the Cabinet
  2. undertakes to work with the Committee to provide a joint provision of factual and unbiased information to the people of Scotland.

Further Information

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