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by Louise Wilson
29 June 2022
Lord Advocate urged to make statement to parliament over independence referendum bill

PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo

Lord Advocate urged to make statement to parliament over independence referendum bill

The Lord Advocate has been urged to appear before parliament to answer questions relating to the legality of the proposed Scottish Independence Referendum Bill.

Scottish Labour’s Neil Bibby has written to Dorothy Bain urging her to give a statement to MSPs before parliament breaks up for summer recess on Thursday.

He said there were a “number of questions members wish to ask on behalf of our constituents about the legal process” around the bill.

Bain yesterday submitted a reference to the Supreme Court, the UK’s highest court, seeking a ruling on whether the Scottish Parliament could legislate for a fresh referendum without a Section 30 order from the UK Government.

That has now been referred to Supreme Court president Lord Reed for consideration.

Bibby said: “The SNP government can always find parliamentary time for their announcements, but when it suits them they hide behind procedure to avoid accountability.

“The Scottish Parliament is not Nicola Sturgeon’s soapbox – the SNP must support our attempts to deliver proper scrutiny and oversight of their decisions.”

A similar call was made by Scottish Conservative Donald Cameron in parliament yesterday. He asked: “Will the First Minister commit as a matter of urgency to having the Lord Advocate appear in the chamber to answer questions from MSPs on the legality or otherwise of the proposals that the First Minister has just outlined?”

But Sturgeon said she could not make such a commitment because Bain “acts independently”.

However, she added: “I am sure that the Lord Advocate would be more than happy to answer questions from MSPs.”

The Scottish Independence Referendum Bill was published by the Scottish Government yesterday, proposing to hold the vote on 19 October 2023.

However, it has not been formally lodged with the Scottish Parliament.

Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie yesterday suggested the reason behind that was because the Lord Advocate “has been unable to sign the referendum bill” to confirm it is within the competence of Holyrood.

In the point of order, Baillie urged Presiding Officer Alison Johnstone to consider take a statement from the Lord Advocate.

Johnstone said: “I have no doubt that the bureau will consider this in due course.”

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