Members of the Lords debated a motion to approve the draft Scotland Act 1998 (Modification of Schedule 5) Order 2013, yesterday (Wednesday 16 January 2013)
Lord Wallace of Tankerness (Liberal Democrat), the advocate general for Scotland, explained how the order enables the Scottish parliament to legislate for a legal referendum. He said: ‘The Scottish parliament has already considered the order and approved it unanimously. Yesterday the order was debated in the House of Commons and approved without division, and if the order is approved by your Lordships' House and then by the Privy Council, it will enable the Scottish government to introduce a referendum bill that sets out the wording of the question, the date of the referendum and the rules of the campaign for the Scottish parliament to consider.’
Lord Forsyth of Drumlean (Conservative) then spoke, proposing an amendment that would delay the order ‘until the proposals for the date of the referendum, the proposed question and the rules governing the conduct of the referendum have been published and until both Houses of Parliament have debated those proposals’. He said: ‘We are passing responsibility for the conduct of the referendum... without knowing the question, without knowing the date of the referendum, without knowing the rules on expenses for the conduct of the referendum and without even knowing who is going to be allowed to vote in the referendum.’
Lord Foulkes of Cumnock (Labour) raised his concerns, saying: ‘...would it not be helpful if the supine Scottish media looked at the SNP and its policies, started to put them under scrutiny and started to ask serious questions about what Scotland would really be like under independence? Should we be asking them to show us that they can do their job properly?’
Lord Reid of Cardowan (Labour) queried the timing of the referendum, saying: ‘I cannot for the life of me understand why those of us in Scotland - and ultimately it is the Scottish people who will be making this decision - who have been debating this issue in some detail since at least the 1970s, and in many ways since 1707, have to wait another two years for a decision on this... It will certainly not be in the interests of the people of Scotland, the economy or the social structures to delay the referendum that long.’
Lord Forsyth of Drumlean’s amendment was later withdrawn, but the original motion to approve the draft Scotland Act 1998 (Modification of Schedule 5) Order 2013 was agreed by the House.
About the draft Scotland Act 1998 (Modification of Schedule 5) Order 2013
The order proposes to amend Schedule 5 to the Scotland Act 1998, to devolve power to the Scottish Parliament to legislate for a referendum on Scottish independence. It sets out a number of requirements that have to be met in order for the referendum to happen, including the date by which a poll can be held and the ballot paper to be used.