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Mr. Bernard Jenkin: Rubbish--absolute rubbish.

Mr. Salmond: I hear his former parliamentary private secretary telling me that that is absolute rubbish. On 8 April 1997, The Herald ran the headline:

Given that, earlier today, Conservative Members suggested to the Prime Minister that if he was misquoted he should have corrected the record, perhaps the then Secretary of State for Scotland should have corrected the record if he felt that he was misquoted during the election campaign. My point is that it is deeply insulting to people in Scotland to conduct the argument on that basis.

Mr. Jenkin: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Salmond: No, I am not giving way to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Jenkin: He does not dare.

Mr. Salmond: If the hon. Gentleman checks the record, he will find that I am more than generous in giving way to a range of hon. Members. I am not giving way because I want to refer to the nature and quality of the arguments.

It is demeaning to argue for a threshold, for a fancy franchise, for a 40 per cent. rule or for a 50 per cent. rule--that is an assault on the democratic process. It is also demeaning and inaccurate of Conservative Members to show their contempt for Scotland and for Wales by the way in which they have addressed some of those arguments over the past 24 hours.

All of us have a responsibility to find a method of reaching agreement and of holding a referendum. If we are to consult the people, if we are to offer them a fair chance to express their view and if it is a referendum that is required and not a general election, as has been argued, then surely the case for putting all the options clearly, fairly and squarely before the people on a ballot is unanswerable. Whatever the voting configurations are in the Lobbies later this evening, I know that, in their hearts, most hon. Members know that that is the right thing to do.

Mr. John McAllion (Dundee, East): I shall be brief, because I have personal reservations about referendums in general.

As many hon. Members will know, the referendum device was introduced into our constitution at the end of the 19th century by a man called A. V. Dicey, who openly admitted that he did so with the purpose of blocking home rule for Ireland. In parliamentary terms, he was successful because he did block home rule for Ireland at that time, but that success had grave consequences for the people of that island and for the people of this island with which we have been living ever since. Referendums in general are a conservative measure and are usually introduced by those who want to preserve the constitutional status quo and prevent change of any sort from being introduced by radical reformers.

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Indeed, promoters of referendums since Mr. Dicey have followed his example. Hon. Members will recall that my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) claims credit for having secured the 1975 referendum, but he did not do it because he wanted Britain to go into the Common Market; rather he did it for the opposite purpose. Again, in 1979 the referendum on Scottish devolution was promoted by those who wanted to stop devolution--it was the last throw of the dice for those who wanted to stop a Scottish Parliament being set up. By use of the threshold argument, to which Conservative Members have referred, they were successful in stopping devolution at that time and Scotland has paid the price ever since.

In general, therefore, I am not a natural supporter of referendums and I do not see the need to hold them, except in certain circumstances where they can be justified. I believe that referendums would have been justified in the circumstances that obtained in Scotland in the aftermath of the 1992 general election, when Scotland clearly voted for parties that had proposed a Scottish Parliament. Three out of four voters in Scotland voted for parties that were offering a Scottish Parliament, but all the voters got was five more years of the Tories, who refused to change the status quo.

In those circumstances, it was important to unite the forces for change in Scotland around the one issue that could unite them--the holding of a multi-option referendum, to give the Scottish people the chance to say whether they wanted independence, devolution or the status quo. That campaign was unsuccessful. I am as sorry as anyone else that it was, but the fact that people supported it at that time is not necessarily a reason to expect them to support the holding of a referendum at this point in our history, because there are inherent weaknesses in the multi-option referendum. The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) did not discuss the main weakness.

It is argued that the majority of people in Scotland support devolution, but that is not necessarily the case. The 9 per cent. of the electorate in Scotland who support the Tories are not the only ones who support the status quo. Some members of the Labour party support the status quo. Some supporters of the Labour party support the status quo.

Mrs. Margaret Ewing (Moray): Name them.

Mr. McAllion: I would be here all night. [Hon. Members: "Oh."] It is a joke. [Laughter.] The likelihood is that there would be a three-way split in any such vote. We do not know what the terms of that split would be--perhaps 40 per cent. for devolution, 30 per cent. for independence and 25 per cent. for the status quo. The idea that we should settle the issue by second choices does not encourage me much.

If I had to vote in a multi-option referendum, I would put devolution first and independence second, but I would not want independence to be established in Scotland on the basis of my second choice or those of other people. People should positively vote for independence; and if independence is established, it should be established on the basis of a majority, not of second choices. Anything else is a weak position.

I have great sympathy with the idea that the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan expressed--that we have a mandate to establish a Scottish Parliament and we

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should get on with doing it. In fact, if I, not my right hon. Friend, were Secretary of State for Scotland, that is what we would be doing.

Mr. Salmond: If the hon. Member cares to look at the results of The Herald poll on the second question published this morning, he will see that the proposed second question in the referendum can be carried with a majority only on the second choices of people who want independence for Scotland. Why is it all right to carry devolution on the second choices of those who want independence, but not to carry independence on the second choices of those who want devolution?

Mr. McAllion: The Government were given a mandate. The manifesto that the Labour party submitted to the Scottish people at the last general election said that, if elected, Labour would introduce a two-question referendum. The Government are honouring that mandate, and it is a bit much to say that we are being dishonourable by implementing the proposals that we submitted to the Scottish people in a general election, for which they then voted. It is a very honourable position for the Government to take.

I accept that a yes, yes vote will depend on the support of Scottish National party supporters. I hope that they will understand that if they vote yes, yes we shall get, for the first time in nearly 300 years, a Parliament in Scotland, and that can be only to their advantage. I make no pretence that it will be otherwise. It will be to the advantage of the SNP to have a Parliament in Scotland because, obviously, they will receive far better representation in that Government, under a proportional system, than they possibly could in this Parliament under a first-past-the-post system, and I entirely welcome that.

It would be open to a Scottish Parliament to decide to hold a referendum on whatever subject it wished. I accept that and I have no problem with it. However, at this stage in the fight for a Scottish Parliament, it is important to maximise the yes, yes vote. I am sure that the SNP will help.

Ms Roseanna Cunningham (Perth): I am interested in what the hon. Member has to say, and we are all heartened when a Government honour their manifesto pledges, but is he seriously suggesting that the people of Scotland would rise up and object if the current Government decided to go even further than their manifesto pledge and offer that third option? Does he think that, having been promised 250,000 jobs, people will object if, by chance, 255,000 jobs are created? That is effectively what he is saying. Is he really arguing that people will object if the Government exceed their manifesto commitment?

Mr. McAllion: The hon. Lady is asking me to agree that the Labour Government should implement the SNP manifesto now that the Labour Government have been elected. Of course that makes no sense.

In fact, the SNP manifesto does not propose a multi-option referendum. During the general election, Charter 88 called a democracy day debate, in which all the candidates had to answer questions on democracy. The question came up about Labour's proposals for a

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two-question referendum, and the SNP candidate who stood against me gave an assurance from the platform during the election that, if elected, the SNP would hold a multi-option referendum and stand by the result.

I took that to be SNP policy until today, when I examined the SNP general election manifesto. It shows a picture of Fergus Ewing--described as the "Cabinet Chief Secretary". [Hon. Members: "Where is he?"] I do not know where he is, but the manifesto said what would happen if the SNP had won the last general election in Scotland:

and with the European Parliament.

    "At the conclusion of this period (which is likely to take between six and twelve months) the people of Scotland will be asked to approve the 'independence settlement' in a simple one question referendum."

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