‘I don’t think we can have a referendum on independence unless we have a single question’. Michael Moore was unequivocal this afternoon: the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence will be a single-question vote, or it won’t happen at all. The Scottish Secretary made his determination quite clear when he appeared before the Scottish Affairs Select Committee, bandying about phrases such as the referendum is of ‘huge political importance’, it has to be ‘fair and clear’ and both sides are ‘willing and able to come to an agreement’.
He was upbeat about the progress of initial talks with Alex Salmond’s administration, telling the MPs that he believed a deal on the terms of the vote could be struck as soon as 22 October. But Moore was adamant that the government would not grant the powers for a referendum if both sides couldn’t agree to put a single question to the electorate in two years time. He was also clear that the wording of the actual question should be left to the Electoral Commission, stating he hoped both sides would recognise the expertise of a ‘trusted body’.
The Select Committee was happy with most of his feedback on progress so far, but was less cheery over lack of limits to campaign funding. Moore confirmed that the 12-16 week period in the run up to decision day will be subject to the Electoral Commission’s regular limits but acquiesced there has been no agreement yet as to what happens before then. The Secretary of State was hopeful though that a funding agreement, ‘binding between both sides’, would remain on the cards to ensure the referendum is an equal fight.
While Moore repeated today that an independence decision is important to ‘clear up uncertainties’, a national survey shows that the nation remains unsure on how they will vote in 2014. This year’s British Social Attitudes report states that the majority are against breaking up the United Kingdom, but support for cutting off Scotland is on the rise. 32 per cent stated they would want Scottish independence, up nine points from two years ago. Although much of the detail has yet to be discussed, the pressure is on Moore to ensure the finer points of the referendum are not rushed and the vote will happen on equal terms.Tags: Alex Salmond, Michael Moore, Scottish Affairs Select Committee, Scottish independence, SNP, UK politics