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June 6, 2011 11:12 pm
Victory in a referendum on Scotland’s independence would not be binding and would have to be followed by another on the terms of any break-up of the UK, Holyrood has been warned.
The comments by Michael Moore, the Liberal Democrat Scottish secretary in the coalition government, sparked an angry response from the Scottish National party, which last month won a landslide victory at Holyrood.
The SNP is committed to holding an independence referendum in the second half of its five-year term. However, Mr Moore, said on Monday that if Scots voted for independence, the UK government would have to hold a second, binding referendum.
“If we have an advisory referendum set out by the Scottish government, I think it is a strong likelihood – and certainly my personal view – that you would need a second referendum on the formalities of agreeing what has been sorted out between the governments,” he said in Edinburgh.
Mr Moore’s stance drew a furious response from a spokesperson for Alex Salmond, Scotland’s first minister and leader of the SNP, who is set to meet David Cameron, prime minister, on Wednesday. “Michael Moore doesn’t make the decisions, the prime minister and the chancellor make them – and the UK government is meant to be pursuing a ‘respect agenda’ towards Scotland, where the mandate from the people is overwhelming,” the spokesperson said.
Describing Mr Moore’s remarks on the referendum as “wittering and irrelevant nonsense”, the spokesperson accused the Scottish secretary of coming up with a new off-the-cuff position every time he talked about the subject: “Last month he said he was totally against Westminster bringing forward a referendum – it was, rightly, ‘entirely a matter for the Scottish government’ – and in the last Holyrood parliament his party was totally against having any referendum.”
The SNP insists Scots have the right to opt for independence on the basis of one referendum, as was done for devolution in 1997.
Mr Salmond will on Wednesday press the prime minister to grant Holyrood control over corporation tax – a measure of fiscal autonomy the UK government is considering giving to Northern Ireland.
Mr Moore said he hoped that Mr Salmond would be in a position this week to flesh out the details of the changes he was seeking.
“The SNP had a manifesto commitment to consultation on what corporation tax would look like if it were devolved,” he said. “But it is not clear whether we are talking about the
tax rate or the entire tax base.”
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