Local councillors debate independence referendum

ELLON’S councillors have weighed in on the ongoing debate about a potential referendum on Scottish independence.

Speaking to the Times, Cllrs Rob Merson, Isobel Davidson and Gillian Owen gave opinions on the timing, questions to be asked, and format of the referendum, which First Minister Alex Salmond has said should take place in 2014.

Prime Minister David Cameron has weighed into the debate, with a public stalemate between the First Minister and the Prime Minister regarding supervision of the vote, its timing, and whether or not a second question - relating to full fiscal autonomy - will be allowed on the paper.

Nationalist Cllr Merson has been a long time supporter of a referendum on the topic, and said that he was looking forward to the debate.

“The prospect of an Independence Referendum is something that the members of the Scottish National Party have worked towards for many years. We are, by definition, entirely comfortable with the concept of allowing the future of the nation to be decided by the people of Scotland, rather than its politicians.

“However, such an important decision must be arrived at through the mature process of democratic debate and informed discussion; it is not a process into which we should allow ourselves to be harried for the benefit of politicians who wish to mount a mount a quick ‘scare campaign’ in their attempt to kill the prospect of independence while it is still in its crib.

“As a lifelong Scottish Nationalist, it is my firm belief that Independence is the rightful state for a nation – and we are sufficiently mature and confident to manage our own affairs and take our place among our sister nations. I therefore do not favour ‘Devo-Max’ - but I am aware that there are some civil groups who do, and I believe that it is their democratic right for that option to be included in the referendum.

“I believe that there is a compelling argument in favour of Independence, and I very much look forward to the discussions and debates which will take place over the coming months.”

Cllr Isobel Davidson told the Times: “I welcome a referendum, but we need to ensure that we have all the facts to allow people to vote with their heads rather than their hearts. We should also remember that this is about the end of the United Kingdom so has implications for the other nations in the Union. While I agree that Scotland should decide its own fate, we do need to consider the opinion of the other countries. There should only be a yes or no vote - no fall back option.”

“There is a lot of information to gather - on the effect on the economy, the European Union and sterling but I think 2 years is probably a bit too long to wait and would have preferred it earlier.”

Meanwhile, Cllr Gillian Owen criticised the delay of the referendum until 2014, telling the Times that the question needed to be clear and decisive.

“The question of a referendum on Scottish Independence is taking up a lot of media time currently. As an English woman resident in Scotland who will receive a vote, I think we all need to be clear in what we will be voting on.

“Personally, I want clarity not confusion. I want cooperation, as Scotland in practice has two governments. I want it settled once and for all. So what are the SNP worried about? We all have to respect the fact that the SNP won a majority of seats at Holyrood. But the coalition Parties won more votes in Scotland in the UK General Election, than the number who voted for Alex Salmond last year. His is not the only mandate.

“My Party wants to remove obstacles to the referendum to make it legal, fair and decisive. Why would the SNP object to that?”