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Scottish Parliament should be given powers to scrutinise future referendum questions, committee says

Graham Simson, chair of the Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee - Image credit: Scottish Parliament

Scottish Parliament should be given powers to scrutinise future referendum questions, committee says

The Scottish Parliament should be given powers to scrutinise proposals for any major referendum in future, according to a Holyrood committee.

The Scottish Parliament’s Delegated Powers and Law Reform (DPLR) Committee said that there should be primary legislation for referendum questions on issues of national importance, such as constitutional or moral questions.

A “one-size-fits-all approach” to referendums was not appropriate, committee convener Graham Simpson said.

The comments came as the committee is evaluating the Scottish Government’s Referendums Bill, which aims to create a standard framework for any future referendums.

A committee report suggests that there could be different levels of scrutiny for different types of referendums, rather than a blanket approach for all of them.

The committee has also recommended that the Electoral Commission should be allowed to consider and respond to any possible referendum question.

Simpson said: “Clearly this bill represents quite significant powers and on issues of such national importance, such as constitutional or moral questions, it is essential that the Scottish Parliament adopts appropriate measures of scrutiny.

“Proposals for different referendums may require a different level of parliamentary scrutiny and the one-size-fits-all approach currently found in the bill is not adequate.

“We will now share our recommendations with the Finance and Constitution Committee to help inform their consideration of this bill.”

The Referendums (Scotland) Bill was introduced to parliament by the Constitutional Relations Secretary Mike Russell on 28 May 2019, with the Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee designated as the lead committee tasked with considering whether proposed delegated powers in the bill are appropriate.

The Finance and Constitution Committee is also considering the bill.

It will take evidence from the Electoral Commission on Wednesday 18 September and from Mike Russell on Wednesday 25 September.

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