UK urged not to be bullied by SNP on timetable for independence

The UK government should not be pressurised into concluding negotiations to enable Scotland to become an independent state by an artificial deadline set by one party, according to a new report out today.

The UK government should not be pressurised into concluding negotiations to enable Scotland to become an independent state by an artificial deadline set by one party, according to a new report out today.

Alex Salmond has previously set March 2016 as the point at which Scotland would become independent should Scots vote for it in September.

However, in a report on the constitutional implications of the referendum, the House of Lords Constitution Committee has concluded that the UK government “should not put the interests of the rest of the UK at risk by attempting to stick to that timetable”, raising the prospect of the SNP’s proposed timetable not being met.

The Committee explained:

“The Scottish government have proposed a timetable of completing negotiations on independence by March 2016. There is no constitutional principle by which that timetable would bind the rest of the UK. The UK government should not put the interests of the rest of the UK at risk by attempting to stick to that timetable. Any negotiations should take as long as necessary; they should not be foreshortened in order to meet a deadline set by one party to the negotiations.”

Meanwhile, the committee has concluded that to avoid a conflict of interests, Scottish MPs should not be involved in the negotiations that take place between a referendum and possible independence. The Committee explains:

“We recommend that MPs representing Scottish constituencies should not be on the negotiating team for the rest of the UK. Their duty as representatives of their constituents in Scotland would conflict with the objective of that negotiating team: to secure the best arrangements for England, Northern Ireland and Wales.”

It continues:

“We conclude that MPs for Scottish constituencies should not be involved in holding the negotiators for the rest of the UK to account, nor in voting on any measure which ratifies the outcome of the negotiations. In the event of a “yes” vote, we recommend that the Government put before Parliament a proposal that would put this matter beyond doubt before the 2015 election.”

In an unsurprising move, the SNP have responded not by addressing the substance of the report but by attack the messengers instead, launching a scathing critique of the undemocratic nature of the House of Lords. The party’s leader in Westminster, Angus Robertson commented:

“The House of Lords is an undemocratic anachronism stuffed to the gunnels with over 800 peers of the realm who answer to no electors and are often there because of privilege or patronage.

“To be lectured by them about timetables and for democratic processes is something that could only happen in Westminster. It will be elected representatives who will lead Scotland’s transition to independence, not some elite club whose members can still turn up for just half an hour’s work and get a £300 daily allowance.”

The report comes as the latest poll indicates that the Yes campaign still has a mountain to climb if they are to succeed in September’s vote.

The figures, compiled by professor John Curtice of Strathclyde University, and published on the What Scotland Thinks website, compiles figures based on two polls by Survation, one by ICM, one by YouGov, one by TNS BMRB and one by Progressive Scottish Opinion, all conducted between 1 April and 12 May.

Having excluded the ‘don’t knows’, the poll finds that 57 per cent of Scots remain opposed to independence compared to 43 per cent who support it.

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