Bring on debate about future of Scotland, says Moore

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BORDERS MP Michael Moore was one of the architects of the referendum agreement signed in Edinburgh on Monday.

The Scottish Secretary worked with Scotland’s deputy first minister Nicola Sturgeon to negotiate the details that will see Scotland voting on the independence issue before the end of 2014.

There will be a single ‘yes or no’ question on Scotland breaking away from the UK, and 16 and 17-year-olds will be allowed to take part in the ballot.

Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale SNP MSP Christine Grahame welcomed the agreement signed by Prime Minister David Cameron and the First Minister Alex Salmond at St Andrew’s House.

She described the vote on Scotland’s future as “the most important decision we will take in centuries”.

And she told TheSouthern: “I am pleased that all the speculation has come to an end and that there will be one question on the referendum ballot paper.

“I am particularly delighted that 16 and 17-year-olds will have the right to vote in what will determine not just the future of Scotland but their futures.”

The UK government is responsible for constitutional issues and part of Monday’s agreement – being referred to by some as the Edinburgh Agreement – is to allow the Scottish Parliament to hold a legal referendum.

A Section 30 order will be laid in the Scottish Parliament and at Westminster to confirm Holyrood has the power to hold a single question referendum.

After the order has been agreed, the Scottish Government will bring forward legislation to Parliament to allow the referendum to be run, which will set out the proposed date, franchise, the wording of the question, rules on campaign finance, and other rules governing the conduct of the campaign.

Monday’s deal also commits both governments to working together in the best interests of Scotland, whatever the outcome of the ballot.

Following Monday’s signing, Mr Moore said: “Now let’s get on with the real debate over Scotland’s future.”

He continued: “I am glad we have reached this agreement on the referendum process so we can now get on with the real debate over Scotland’s future.

“This is the most important choice the people of Scotland will ever face, so it is vital that both sides now set out their arguments clearly and robustly.

“I personally will be making the case for Scotland’s ongoing place in the UK family because we are better, stronger and safer together, and I firmly believe that Scots will vote positively for that future.

“I am also pleased that we will not be mixing two very separate issues of devolution and independence on one ballot paper. Devolution means strengthening Scotland within the UK whereas independence means taking Scotland out of the UK forever.

“As a Liberal Democrat, I am committed to the ongoing process of devolution and I will be campaigning passionately against the break-up of the UK which would herald the end of this process.”

Also speaking after the signing ceremony, Mr Salmond said: “The Edinburgh Agreement, signed by the Scottish and UK governments today, marks a significant step in Scotland’s Home Rule journey.

“Importantly, it will ensure that the biggest decision the people of our country will make for many generations is made here in Scotland for the benefit of all of those that live and work here.

‪“This will be a referendum designed and delivered by the Scottish Parliament. Today’s accord marks agreement on the process and respect for the outcome, from both sides. In my view, it paves the way for a new partnership in these islands.”

Mr Salmond wants voters to be asked: “Do you agree that Scotland should become an independent country?”

But the wording has been criticised by pro-union supporters for being “loaded”.

Mr Salmond’s preferred date for the referendum is reported to be autumn 2014.