HC Deb 14 March 1979 vol 964 cc428-31
3. Mr. van Straubenzee

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will make a statement on the outcome of the referendum in Scotland on 1 March

6. Mr. Jessel

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what action he intends to take following the referendum on devolution.

11. Mr. Tim Renton

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will make a statement on future arrangements for Scottish devolution.

Mr. Millan

As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has said, the appropriate order under section 85(2) of the Scotland Act will be laid in due course

Mr. van Straubenzee

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many English Members who, under his devolution proposals, would have been made second-class Members view his obvious discomfiture with relish? Will he undertake that no further proposals for devolution to Scotland will be put forward except on a United Kingdom basis, with electors in England entitled to express their view as well?

Mr. Millan

I cannot give those assurances. I understand that the official policy of the Conservative Party is to favour devolution in principle. We should like to see their reaction in practice.

Mr. Jessel

As the House has to interpret the referendum result in order to reach a decision, how does the right hon. Gentleman think we can have any confidence that the 31 per cent. voting"No"adequately represents that view, since many people were told that abstention was equivalent to voting"No "?

Mr. Millan

The most important fact about the referendum in Scotland is that there was a majority of"Yes"votes.

Mr. Renton

Are not the words of Burns singularly applicable to the Government: Wee, sleekit, cow'rin' tim'rous beastile, O what a panic's in thy breastie! "? Is it not abundantly plain that if the"Yes"campaign had not had two party political broadcasts, while the"Noes"had none, the"No"vote would have been in the majority?

Mr. Millan

The hon. Gentleman will need to do better than that.

Mr. Dewar

Will my right hon. Friend accept that the ludicrous efforts of the hon. Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Renton) are a strong argument, in themselves, for devolution? Does he accept that there is a strong feeling in Scotland that, although there is still an argument to be won there, as the rather disappointing referendum result illustrates, the Labour Party and the Government must continue their commitment to devolution and fight to ensure that a better structure of government is brought forward for Scotland?

Mr. Millan

Yes. I was glad to be at the Scottish conference of the Labour Party at the weekend. The conference overwhelmingly carried a statement reasserting the commitment of the Labour Party to devolution for Scotland.

Mr. Gordon Wilson

Since Scotland voted"Yes"on 1 March, why is the Cabinet dithering?

Mr. Millan

The SNP, in the House and elsewhere, has a long history of dithering. I have said that the order will be brought before the House in due course.

Mr. Teddy Taylor

Does the Secretary of State agree that the referendum result cannot be regarded as a mandate for a major constitutional change, particularly in view of the massive misleading propaganda put out by the"Yes"campaigners, including the SNP, that an abstention would be the same as a"No"vote? Does he also agree that, no matter how we regard the result, it does not serve Scotland's interests to have a long delay before putting the issue to the House so that hon. Members can make their decision?

Mr. Millan

The hon. Gentleman was a prominent member of the"No"campaign, and he lost.

Mr. Canavan

Will my right hon. Friend remind the Tories that an absolute majority of those who turned out to vote in the referendum voted"Yes"despite the scaremongering tactics of some of the"No"campaigners, including the Laird o' the Binns and the architect of the 40 per cent. rule, who travelled all the way from Islington to Scotland to try to blackmail Scottish workers by telling them that they would lose their jobs unless they voted"No."?

Mr. Millan

My hon. Friend is basically right. The important aspect of the result is that there was a majority of"Yes"votes.