Scotland politics

Scottish independence: Michael Moore makes referendum deal call

Michael Moore
Image caption Mr Moore said it was "time to crack on" with an agreement

The UK and Scottish governments should reach agreement over the terms of the independence referendum by late October, according to the Scottish secretary.

Michael Moore said he expects to meet the Scottish first minister in the next few weeks to clear the way for an agreement.

The Scottish government said it was looking forward to continuing discussions.

It wants to hold the vote in 2014.

The UK government claims Holyrood does not have the legal power to stage the referendum - and wants to transfer legislative powers to do so by using a Section 30 Order.

At a speech to the National Business Convention in Edinburgh on Thursday, Mr Moore is expected to say than an October agreement on the Section 30 is needed if the Scottish government is to meet its own target of holding the referendum in the autumn of 2014.

He will say: "The prime minister has made clear his commitment to meet and resolve matters before the end of September.

"I look forward to seeing the first minister so that we can make Scotland's referendum a reality.

"It's time to crack on. Time is pressing. The sooner we can get the process issues out of the way and get on to the 'great debate' itself, the better for everyone, and the less damaging the uncertainty will be for people and businesses alike."

He will also say that reaching an agreement by the end of October would allow both the Scottish and UK parliaments to scrutinise and approve the Order, paving the way to a Bill in the spring.

And Mr Moore will add that Scotland's future must be decided "at the ballot box, not in the courtroom" and restate his belief that using a Section 30 was the only way to ensure that happened.

Responding to Mr Moore's speech, a spokesman for the Cabinet Secretary for Parliamentary Business Bruce Crawford welcomed his confirmation that further work needed to be done before agreement was reached on a timetable.

'More powers'

He added: "Scotland's referendum in autumn 2014 must be made in Scotland and decided by Scotland's parliament - and as we have always said we have absolutely no objection to a Section 30 Order in regard to the referendum, with no Westminster strings attached, which could be agreed very shortly.

"It is only right that matters such as a 'more powers' option and votes for 16 and 17 year-olds are carefully and properly considered, which is exactly what the Scottish government are doing.

"One outstanding matter is that we are still waiting on Mr Moore to distance himself from the remarks of the Convener of Westminster's Scottish Affairs Committee (Ian Davidson MP), who said that 'of course' the anti-independence parties would attach conditions to a Section 30 Order in relation to the referendum.

"This is directly contradictory to Mr Moore's own statement in the House of Commons on 10 January that it is his task, 'to ensure that this referendum is made in Scotland, by the people of Scotland, for the future of Scotland'."

Shadow Scottish Secretary Margaret Curran said: "We have always been clear that the referendum should be clear and legal, and that a Section 30 Order agreed by both the UK and Scottish Parliaments is the way to do that.

"The SNP government was elected with a mandate to hold a referendum on independence. This timetable allows that to happen and for us to be in a position to hold a referendum after next spring."

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