The Scottish Parliament should be given adequate powers to scrutinise proposals in full for any major referendum, according to a Holyrood Committee. It has said that primary legislation is necessary for referendum questions on issues of national significance, such as constitutional or moral questions.
The Delegated Powers and Law Reform (DPLR) Committee latest report is in response to the Referendums (Scotland) Bill. The Scottish Government Bill aims to create a detailed framework for each and every referendum.
The committee report suggests that there might be different levels of scrutiny for different types of referenda rather than a blanket approach for all of them.
The Committee has also recommended that the Electoral Commission be given the opportunity to consider and respond to any possible referendum question.
Graham Simpson MSP, Convener of the DPLR Committee, 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 DPLR Committee took evidence from the Cabinet Secretary for Government Business and Constitutional Relations, Michael Russell MSP, on this issue on Tuesday 10 September 2019.
The Referendums (Scotland) Bill was introduced by the Cabinet Secretary for Government Business and Constitutional Relations Michael Russell MSP, on 28 May 2019. The remit of the Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee is to consider whether proposed delegated powers in the Bill are appropriate and report to the lead committee on those provisions.
The Finance and Constitution Committee is still taking evidence on the Bill. At its meeting on Wednesday 18 September it will take evidence from a range of bodies, including the Electoral Commission. At its meeting on Wednesday 25 September it will conclude its evidence with a session with the Cabinet Secretary for Government Business and Constitutional Relations.
To learn more about the work of the Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee go to the Scottish Parliament website.