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Helpful start to referendum talks says Moore

The Secretary of State described talks with the First Minister as a "useful start" although there is "still some way to travel"  before the UK and Scottish Governments can reach agreement on the detail of the referendum

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Scottish Secretary Michael Moore described today’s referendum talks with the First Minister as a “useful start” although he said there is “still some way to travel”  before the UK and Scottish Governments can reach agreement on the detail of the referendum.

Mr Moore said officials from both governments would now discuss the option of using a Section 30 Order, approved by the UK and Scottish Parliaments, in order to put the referendum on a proper legal footing.

The Scottish Secretary said that there were important issues such as the timing of the referendum and the need for a single question on the ballot paper and the franchise where the two governments do not agree.

Following the meeting in Edinburgh, Scottish Secretary Michael Moore said:

“The talks were helpful and both sides are keen to sort out the referendum process as quickly as possible so that we can get on to the real debate on Scotland’s future.

“Having said that, this is the most important decision Scotland will ever make so we need to ensure the referendum is legal, fair and decisive.

“There is no question that we still have some way to travel to reach agreement on some important aspects of the referendum. I am still not convinced that the people of Scotland should have to wait nearly three years to have their say on independence. It is a long time until Autumn 2014 and I have still to hear a good reason for why we should have to wait so long.

“I also believe that an independence referendum should be a straight question on independence. Whether Scotland should be part of the UK is the issue we are dealing with. I want the people of Scotland to be asked a straight question, fairly and clearly, whether Scotland should be independent or remain part of the UK.

“The UK Government is also not persuaded that we should start changing the referendum rules to allow 16 and 17 year olds to vote. Our view is that the electorate that elects the Scottish Parliament should be the same one that votes in the referendum.

“It is in everyone’s interests that both of Scotland’s governments work together to agree a referendum that is legal, fair and decisive. We need a process and outcome that is fair for all of Scotland and that is what we’re committed to achieving.”

Published 13 February 2012