A petition has been lodged at the Scottish Parliament in response to the Scottish Government’s Referendums (Scotland) Bill. The petition advocates that any Scottish referendum which involves constitutional change should require at least a two-thirds majority to be successful.
Mark Openshaw, the individual who lodged the petition spoke to Brig about why he lodged the petition and the desired impact that he hopes it will have.
Explaining the reasons behind the petition, Openshaw said that both Brexit and the Scottish independence referendum of 2014 “demonstrate perfectly” the need of “a bigger majority to produce a result that will be undisputed and long lasting”.
On the topic of Scottish independence, Openshaw argued that Scottish independence “after centuries of union will be much more complex” than Brexit. He added:
“A two-thirds majority would mean that anyone advocating an election would need to have a clear indication in the polls that this was what the public wanted them to prioritise at the expense of health, transport, climate change and all the real problems already existing.”
Openshaw also hopes the petition will raise awareness of the Scottish referendum’s bill currently in the Scottish Parliament. He said:
“With the media preoccupied with Brexit there has been little reporting or public discussion of the proceedings which will set out this hugely important framework for future referenda.”
Commenting on the principle of a two-thirds majority for any referendum which advocates major constitutional change, local Conservative MP Stephen Kerr said:
“I do not like referendums. We are a parliamentary democracy and I have always thought we should use parliament to debate and resolve issues fully and in detail. “
Kerr added that “there is case for a ‘supermajority’ ” if a referendum advocates major constitutional change although questioned: “What then happens if there is a majority that falls only slightly short of the amount needed?”
When asked if a referendum should be legally binding rather than advisory, Kerr responded:
“Any referendum that is held must be binding and the decision implemented. One cannot tell people their decision will be respected and then not do so.”
When approached for comment regarding a two-thirds majority for any future Scottish referendum, Alyn Smith, SNP MEP for Scotland since 2004, said:
“It is a long established principle of international law that any vote on independence is 50% plus one. I do not see that any case for change has been made.”
On the subject of referendums being legally binding, Smith said:
“It depends on the question and the proposition.
“The standards governing [the EU referendum] were notably more lax. That it has, by some, been retrospectively interpreted as binding gives the lie to how sloppily drafted the referendum legislation was, a fault of the Westminster parliament and government, and a mistake we should all learn from.”
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