Referendum Bill delayed
Feb 11, 2010 No Comments
First Minister Alex Salmond has said his Government has been forced to “outmaneuver the maneuverers” and publish his flagship Referendum Bill as a draft piece of legislation to avoid it being stymied by unionist parties.
At a press conference at Bute House this morning, Salmond accused the unionist opposition parties of conspiring to “grab control of the referendum and dispose of it as quickly as possible.”
He pointed to parliamentary tactics employed by Labour, the Tories and the Liberal Democrats to establish an ad hoc committee to examine independent MSP Margo MacDonald’s End of Life Bill, which would have ensured the referendum legislation was handled by a committee convened by a unionist MSP, as proof of the need to make the change.
The draft bill, to be published in the next few days, will now go out to consultation. Salmond said he hoped that after the “febrile” atmosphere of the General Election campaign passed, MSPs would be able to look at the legislation in a new light.
He also expressed hope that a referendum could still be held on St Andrew’s Day of this year.
But opposition parties slammed the move.
Labour’s Iain Gray said the move was “humiliating” for the SNP:
“This is a humiliating climb down for the SNP who are running scared on their plans for a referendum. They have spent millions of pounds promoting a bill that they are now afraid to submit to parliamentary scrutiny.
“The facts are that Alex Salmond is in a desperate place. His administration has run out of steam, his ministers are under pressure and he is frightened that his last remaining key manifesto pledge is set to be rejected. “
Tory leader Annabel Goldie called on the SNP to stop “dithering” over the bill:
“This is a desperate attempt by Alex Salmond to divert attention from the troubles swamping his government. His independence bill is doomed to failure, is a waste of taxpayers' money and Parliamentary time.
“He needs to start acting like a First Minister and not an opposition party in Government. He should stop dithering and either ditch the bill or introduce it.”