This week, the Scottish Parliament will vote on whether to seek a Section 30 order, the device in the UK Parliament’s power that would give it the right to hold a second referendum on Scottish independence. The SNP Government is expected to win with the support of the Greens. However, Lib Dem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton has made it clear that the Greens do not have a mandate to call for a referendum given that the three conditions in their manifesto have not been met. He has challenged Greens leader Patrick Harvie – who could easily merit being called “Pushover Patrick” for voting with the SNP on these critical issues, to explain his actions.
Alex has asked Mr Harvie why the party has turned its attention away from public service reform, back-tracked on its requirement that opinion polls should indicate support for a new referendum, and scrapped its requirement that a million-strong petition should be the trigger.
The Scottish Greens had three criteria to allow a referendum from their manifesto. None has been met.
The Greens have no mandate for a referendum. They should respect that and decline to vote for a referendum at Holyrood next Wednesday.
Scottish Liberal Democrats had a manifesto commitment against a referendum and we will stick to that.
With education performance slipping, the mental health strategy abandoned and the economy sluggish, Scotland needs its Parliament working on these issues instead of a referendum.
Alex has written to Patrick Harvie saying:
I’m writing ahead of next week’s parliamentary vote on the First Minister’s demand for a Section 30 order. It has been raised with me by a number of concerned constituents that the Green Party manifesto lays out specific criteria for a second independence referendum and I am writing to you to enquire as to whether those criteria still hold, given that none has been met.
In your manifesto you state that “For the next term of the Scottish Parliament Green MSPs will focus on using existing and forthcoming powers to deliver the changes that will make difference to the people of Scotland – on fuel poverty, land reform, funding public services and many other challenges which need to be tackled right on.” Do you believe that this focus is best maintained by switching priority to a second referendum?
Your manifesto also states that “If a new referendum is to happen, it should come about by the will of the people, and not be driven by calculations of party political advantage.”
Given that polls have consistently show less than 50% support for independence, and even less for a referendum, what evidence do you have to support a claim that this is the will of the people?
Your manifesto also states “Citizens should be able to play a direct role in the legislative process by presenting a petition signed by an appropriate number of voters” and you have offered further clarification that evidence of this would be “a call for a referendum signed by up to 1 million people on the electoral register.”
Is this still the Scottish Greens’ preferred way of deciding to hold a second referendum on independence? And if so, how many signatures do you have?
In May last year, I stood on a manifesto to oppose a second independence referendum and was returned by the voters of Edinburgh Western on that basis. I recognise that the Green Party are supporters of independence. However I am sure you are equally concerned by fidelity to the manifesto that the Green Party stood upon and on which voters supported you. I look forward to hearing your response.
Yours sincerely, Alex Cole-Hamilton
MSP for Edinburgh Western