Letter: Devolution is best for Scotland and Westminster

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The Independent Online
Letter: Devolution is best for Scotland and Westminster

Sir: The argument about whether or not a referendum should be held before or after the Devolution Act is passed through Parliament misses the point (Sheena McDonald; "Labour's slippery offering to the people of Scotland", 22 August).

Tam Dalyell MP may believe that the devil lies in the detail but I doubt whether the average voter is going to base their final decision on what the Act will have to say on savings and investments, personal pensions and annuity schemes etc, nor should they. Instead, the referendum vote should be based upon a consideration of basic constitutional principles.

Do the Scottish people want Scottish affairs to be governed by representatives directly accountable for their work, or do they trust British MPs to do the job for them? Furthermore, are Scottish people willing to take genuine responsibility for their own affairs, ie to put their money where their mouth is? That is the broad gist of the proposals, and as such is clearly outlined by the White Paper and the Labour manifesto.

These are the questions which the referendum should address, meanwhile Parliament, if it is designed for any purpose at all, is there to scrutinise the detail. That function it will be better able to perform once the basic principles have been accepted by the Scottish people. One need only recall the filibustering which accompanied the 1978-9 legislation to realise the common sense behind the present government's approach.

But just in case Sheena McDonald is correct and the voter really is about to rest their decision on the precise detail of the Devolution Act, might I suggest that we are truly democratic and have not two questions on the referendum paper but one question for every clause of the Act.