Scottish Affairs CommitteeAdditional written evidence submitted by Rt Hon Michael Moore Secretary of State for Scotland

You will be aware that the Government’s consultation on Scotland’s constitutional future closed on 9 March. It is my intention to publish a full summary of the responses when Ministers and officials have had the opportunity to analyse and consider them fully.

However, you will be aware that referendum amendments will be debated in the House of Lords tomorrow. To enable their Lordships to have as full a debate as possible I want to provide an initial summary of the findings that have emerged from the consultation so far.

I was very pleased with the way that people in Scotland engaged with the consultation, with almost 3000 responses received. These responses included many thoughtful replies from men and women across Scotland and beyond and also from businesses, academics, political parties, trade unions and others from across civic Scotland.

The Government’s key proposal in the consultation was that the referendum must be legal, fair and decisive. To provide for a legal referendum, we set out our view that a section 30 Order should be agreed, to devolve to the Scottish Parliament the power to legislate for a referendum. Initial analysis of the responses indicates clear support for our proposal; a significant majority of those who responded to this issue agreed that powers to hold a referendum should be devolved to the Scottish Parliament and of these, the great majority supported using a section 30 Order. However, analysis of any consultation is not simply a matter of counting responses and so I am pleased that our preference for agreeing a section 30 Order was endorsed by constitutional experts including Matt Qvortrup, Adam Tomkins and Alan Trench, and by knowledgeable organisations such as the Law Society of Scotland, the Electoral Reform Society of Scotland, the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the British Academy.

Of course, the Scottish Government in their consultation also accepted that a section 30 Order was the best way to remove doubts about the competence of the Scottish Parliament. I welcome this endorsement, and while I recognise that the Scottish Government’s consultation is still ongoing, I look forward to agreeing a section 30 Order with Scottish Ministers, to allow a legal, fair and decisive referendum.

I will publish a full summary of the other issues raised in the consultation after the Easter recess. However, early analysis of the responses shows clear support for a single question on independence; for the referendum to be held sooner rather than later; for the Electoral Commission to be involved in oversight of the referendum and for the Scottish Parliament franchise to be used for the referendum.

In making this information available now, I am seeking to balance the need to ensure that tomorrow’s debate in the House of Lords is as well informed as possible, with the need to provide Parliament with a full and detailed analysis of the consultation in due course.

March 2012

Prepared 4th May 2012