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Parliament, not ministers, should settle major referendum questions: MSPs

18 September 2019

The Scottish Parliament should have adequate powers to scrutinise proposals in full for any major referendum, according to a Holyrood committee.

In a report on the Scottish Government's Referendums (Scotland) Bill, which aims to create a detailed framework for every referendum, the Delegated Powers & Law Reform (DPLR) Committee concludes that primary legislation is necessary for referendum questions on issues of national significance, such as constitutional or moral questions.

It further recommends that the Electoral Commission be given the opportunity to consider and respond to any possible referendum question. However different levels of scrutiny might be applied to different types of referenda, rather than a blanket approach for all of them.

Committee convener Graham Simpson MSP commented: “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.”

The committee's remit was to consider whether the proposed delegated powers in the bill are appropriate and report to the lead committee on the bill, the Finance & Constitution Committee, which is still taking evidence ahead of preparing its stage 1 report.

Click here to view the DPLR Committee report.


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