HC Deb 07 February 1979 vol 962 cc385-7
15. Mr. MacCormick

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is satisfied with the final arrangements made for the referendum on 1 March.

Mr. Harry Ewing

Yes, Sir.

Mr. MacCormick

Does the Under-Secretary of State agree that, as the "Yes" campaign in Scotland is being very successful, at the same time it would be extremely frustrating if too many people were not allowed or were unable to vote? Will he look again at the arrangements which have been made or promised for taking into account, for example, all the young people in the Highlands and Islands who will be away at university at the time of the referendum on 1 March?

Mr. Ewing

I agree that the "Yes" campaign is being very successful and will be more successful.

I should draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to the fact that, in relation to the other points that he raised, there is a later question on the Order Paper which my right hon. Friend will answer.

Mr. Dewar

Will my hon. Friend confirm that it is his intention to produce a final figure which will take account of the deductions from the total electoral roll before the referendum on 1 March so that we know exactly on what figure the 40 per cent. will be calculated?

Mr. Ewing

I can confirm that my right hon. Friend will make an announcement to that effect before the referendum takes place.

Mr. David Steel

Will the hon. Gentleman take an interest, with a view to being helpful, in the present shambles over the broadcasting arrangements for the referendum?

Mr. Ewing

That is not a matter for me as the Minister responsible. I am tempted to say that I have an interest in all the present shambles, but I should prefer to leave it at that for the moment.

Mr. Heffer

If my hon. Friend is to take into consideration the various anomalies which have arisen from the referendum, will he also take into consideration the anomaly of the Scots who live in England and Wales and in other parts of the United Kingdom who are not to be allowed to vote on this question, but who also have a view on the future of Scotland?

Mr. Ewing

With respect to my hon. Friend, the House has decided who shall have the right to vote in the referendum. The House has made that decision, and that is the end of the matter.

Mr. Alexander Fletcher

In the interests of fair play, will the Minister reconsider his original reply to the question? I am sure that he and his right hon. Friend will want to ensure that the referendum is conducted fairly. As the question on the ballot paper refers to "Yes" and "No" votes only, how can he be satisfied with the present broadcasting arrangements? So far we have had two party political broadcasts on the "Yes" side. Unless an arrangement is made soon, the charge must be levelled at the hon. Gentleman, his right hon. Friend and other members of the Government that the whole referendum campaign is being rigged in favour of a "Yes" vote.

Mr. Ewing

If the hon. Gentleman thinks that the day will ever dawn when the Tory Party has an influence on what is said in a Labour Party political broadcast, he is living in could cuckoo land. The parties are responsible for what they put out on their own party political broadcasts. In the democracy in which we live, the hon. Gentleman should not want to change that situation.