The Scottish Secretary Micheal Moore has told the Scottish Liberal Democrat conference that a referendum on independence should be held in July of next year.
The MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk accused the SNP of stalling because they want to wait till the autumn of 2014.
He told delegates that he wanted the Scottish Government to conduct the referendum but that it should be a simple yes or no vote to independence.
Speech in full:
– Scottish Secretary Michael Moore
It is a great pleasure to be here in Inverness.
This city is the heart of the Highlands,and has been at the core of our Scottish party for generations.
From Russell Johnston to Charles Kennedy to Danny Alexander, Inverness has given our party - our country - some of itsmost thoughtful, popular and influential figures.
And in the time honoured tradition of my friend Simon Hughes,let me tell you about my own personal connection to this part of the world.
Though I was born in Northern Ireland, it was to Invernessthat my family moved when I was barely a toddler.
A wee while ago
It’s here that my two sisters were born.
And it’s here that I went to Nursery school and learned LittleMiss Muffet in Gaelic.
I passed it off to my Dad – a padre at Fort George– as a grace.
He didn’t know the difference.
I bet his congregation did.
Thankfully, people from this part of the country areunderstanding, tolerant and warm.
Values that Liberal Democrats hold dear.
So I am delighted to be here today – and in such good company.
Our leaders top the bill.
Nick Clegg a man of vision, strength and determination – a greatDeputy Prime Minister.
And Willie Rennie, whose energy, commitment and humour arewinning over people across Scotland.
Except the FirstMinister.
But it’s also great to see so many enthusiastic activists,hard-working councillors, our MEP, our MSPs, and all five of our UKcabinet ministers.
And every one of us here because we share two things.
The ambition to shape a Scotland that is free, fair andgreen.
And the determination to ensure that we win as many councilseats as possible in May this year.
There’s something unique about our party.
When things are tough – and we all know that things have beentough – we don’t turn in on ourselves.
We move forward and we do what’s right.
That's why we joined the Coalition.
Because at a time of crisis, with our economy on the edge, wewouldn't walk away.
We saw the mess left behind by Labour.
We saw that our country stood at the edge of an economic cliff.
And we came together with others to govern in the nationalinterest.
But Westminsterhas never been the sole focus for us.
As a student I joined the party because I believe that everyindividual matters and every man and woman has a contribution to make.
They make that contribution as part of a community.
I have experienced community everywhere I’ve lived in Scotland: here in Inverness, in Wishaw, inJedburgh – and in Edinburghtoo.
Those communities, and all the others, taken together, make Scotlandwhat it is.
Just as Scotlandmakes the UKwhat it is.
And the the UKmakes Europe what it is too.
Each of these presents the opportunity to work together for thegreater good.
And it's that philosophy - in not out, stronger together, poorerapart - that explains our commitment to keeping our country together in one United Kingdom.
There are plenty of reasons why we should do so.
For me, like many of you, there will be personal reasons.
I was born to Northern Irish parents.
I moved to Scotlandearly on and have lived here pretty well ever since.
My wife is from England,my sisters live in England,and my two year old daughter Ella is being raised to know that all of this ispart of who she is.
So while I am proud - very proud - to be Scottish, my familystory is written across the whole of the United Kingdom.
And families, like countries, are stronger together and poorerapart.
At Westminster,in government, today, Liberal Democrats are doing the right thing by our familyof nations in the toughest of times.
We're doing what we can to make life better for communitiesacross Scotland.
We're investing £70 million as part of a UK-wide super fastbroadband strategy with a pilot project here in the Highlands.
And when that strategy is complete it will transform the waypeople work and learn in rural Scotland.
So the kids doing their homework in Ardersier and the farmerskeeping track of their cattle in the Ettrick Valley can work andthrive in an interconnected world.
We're cutting the cost of petrol for the isles because DannyAlexander beat a path to the European Commission.
He has used the clout we have because the UK is a major member state.
And he has cleared the hurdle of competition rules.
So that parents doing the school run in Kirkwall,the district nurses doing visits in Lewis - those who need cars most butface the highest prices – are given a fairer deal.
And we're founding a Coastal Communities Fund.
Using UK Crown Estate profits to devolve money direct fromcentral government into the cities, towns and villages.
So the fishermen based in Banff,the hotel owners in Argyll or anyone who lives in communities where the profitsare made can apply for a share that will make a difference to the way theylive.
Despite the financial squeeze, Liberal Democrats in governmentare prioritising investment in Scotland'speople and communities.
North to south, east to west, coast to coast.
And we're prioritising the environment too.
Because it is the obligation of every government in the twentyfirst century to put sustainability at the heart of its mission.
By 2050 we have to put the brakes on climate change.
Toddlers in our nursery schools today will only be in theirthirties when we reach that terrible tipping point.
So our duty is to act now.
Liberal Democrats championed good green policies long beforethey were mainstream.
At Holyrood, Scottish Liberal Democrats, in government, putthose policies into practice.
And now at Westminster,Liberal Democrats are in a government that has pledged to be the greenest ever.
In Ed Davey, we have a determined advocate of green action now.
As a Minister at the Department for Business he ended Labour’sPost Office cull.
Now, as Energy Secretary, there is no-one better placed to buildon the green record we have already built in office.
Empowering people to create renewable energy at home or in theworkplace and to get paid for the extra they don’t use.
Revising the subsidies system to encourage long-term investmentin Scotland’srenewable resources.
Consulting on a new Green Deal that will help people becomeenergy efficient, cut their long-term bills, and slash their carbon emissions.
These are the changes that will green our future.
That is the difference that Liberal Democrats make ingovernment.
Let’s pause for a moment to reflect on where this fits in thecurrent constitutional debate.
Across the UKwe have a single energy market.
And that market is key to realising Scotland’s renewables potential.
Yes, we have vast green energy resources.
But we alone could not afford the level of investment needed tomake good on our green ambitions.
Last year Citigroup published a report warning that the veryprospect of an independence referendum would deter investment in Scotland’sgreen future.
And they warned that if Scotlandwere separate from the rest of the UK, green energy subsidies of up to£4 billion a year could be at risk.
So I say that at this critical moment for the global environmentour single energy market is not an option; it is a necessity.
A necessity to meet our targets, invest in our future and combatclimate change.
And it is a positive example of why we are stronger together andpoorer apart.
We also want to make our country – our Scotland, our United Kingdom – a fairer place tolive.
Times are tight.
But fairness isn’t measured by how much money you have to spend.
It’s apparent from how you spend the money you have.
So judge us by our record.
With the Liberal Democrat triple lock on pensions, this springone million Scottish pensioners will benefit from the largest ever cash rise inthe state pension.
With the Liberal Democrat Youth Contract that our Leader NickClegg spoke about yesterday we will deliver work experience, skills andopportunities to young unemployed people across Scotland.
And through the Liberal Democrat commitment to fair taxes wewill continue to cut income tax bills for those Scots who work hard but facerising prices and financial strain.
And on that front, we’ve come a long way in a short time.
When we entered government less than two years ago, peoplestarted paying income tax when they earned just six and a half thousand pounds.
From this year, they will not pay a penny on their first eightthousand.
That means we are taking over 90,000 Scots out of income taxaltogether and cutting the bill for two million more.
Good news for low and middle-income earners; for family budgetsunder pressure.
But we won’t stop there.
No-one should pay income tax on the first £10,000 of their takehome pay.
And in government, Liberal Democrats will ensure that theydon’t.
The question is not if we’ll achieve that but how quickly we cando so.
And the quicker the better.
Our priority is clear.
Now is not the time to prioritise perks, or slash inheritancetax, or cut income tax for our nation’s highest earners.
Nor should we shrug our shoulders at grotesque bonuses or turn ablind eye to tax avoidance.
Now is the time to give help where it is needed.
Now is the time for fairer taxes.
Of course, fairness by our citizens is not just confined to whatwe do within the borders of our country.
It’s also about the role we play out with our island.
Scotland has always been anoutward-looking nation.
And for three hundred years, the UK has given Scots abroad a highplatform from which to project our interests.
And that continues.
This government has placed a premium on trade in our foreignpolicy.
We need to sell our products, open up markets, and find theopportunities abroad that will support business and create jobs at home.
And for Scottish businesses, our place in the UK has never been of greater value.
The established embassies, the consular network, UKTI.
All of these work tirelessly to help Scottish business break newground.
I know; I’ve seen it for myself.
Last November I led a trade mission of twenty five Scottishcompanies to Brazil.
And they benefited – as others do day in, day out – from the UK presence in Rio, in Brasilia, in Sao Paolo.
I was proud to lead that mission, to help Scottish business, tobe part of the UKfamily abroad.
And It’s not just in bilateral relations that Scotland in Britain gets a good, fair deal.
It’s through the clout we gain in international institutionstoo.
In the UN, in NATO, at the WTO.
But where we see it at closest hand is in the EU.
I am a proud European.
I want to see Europe succeed and I want to see Scotland in Britainsucceed within Europe.
And we are.
Fighting for our fishermen’s interests.
Defending Scotland’s150,000 finance sector jobs.
Negotiating on CAP reform where this government has moved onfrom a Labour policy that left the UK isolated and threatened thefuture of Scottish hill farming.
The UKis a major member state with influence and weight.
And Scotland’svoice in Europe speaks louder for that.
It speaks beyond Europe too.
As Scots we pride ourselves in our values.
Fairness, compassion and respect.
Not just for ourselves but for others too.
Today, Scots can be proud that their country is projecting thosevalues abroad.
Whether that’s Scotlandin Britainmeeting the UN benchmark for overseas aid.
Or sending our soldiers to Afghanistan to fight terrorism andpromote human rights.
These things matter.
And Scotlandmatters in getting them done.
We must say that proudly as we approach the independencereferendum.
And there will be a referendum.
The time has come for a clear choice.
As a federalist party – believing in home rule – we know wherewe stand.
For change, against separation.
And I am confident that Scots will listen to the arguments,consider the issues, and vote to remain part of the most successful partnershipof nations in history.
But right now both of Scotland’s governments areconsulting on the terms of a referendum.
The UK Government consultation that I launched in January closeson Friday.
To those who have not yet replied, I urge you to do so.
That consultation outlines our starting point.
We’re clear that the Scottish Government has no power to hold areferendum.
But this matter must be decided at the ballot box, not in thecourtroom.
So we are consulting on how to have a referendum that is legal,fair and decisive.
We want to devolve the power to Holyrood.
And we are working with the Scottish Government to achieve that.
But our consultation makes clear our view:
There should be one simple yes-no question to get a clearresult.
It should be held sooner rather than later to end the damaging uncertainty.
It should be held on the same tried and tested franchise thatelected the Scottish Parliament last May.
And it should be regulated, overseen and the question examinedby the impartial and experienced Electoral Commission.
Legal, fair and decisive.
By working together, Scotland’s two governments candeliver that referendum.
Made in Scotlandfor the people of Scotland.
But what I find frustrating is the Nationalists’determination to go slow.
If Mr Salmond has confidence in his plans – ifhe really believes that Scotlandwill vote to leave the UKfamily – why does he drag his heels?
In January, the SNP said Scots should waitnearly three years to determine their future.
But we don’t need 1000 days to decide thiscrucial question.
We can get this done in the 500 days thatfollow the consultations.
In five hundred days you can plan the poll,pass the law and hold the ballot.
That is enough time for the Scottish people tohear the arguments, consider the evidence, and express their view.
Over the past few days some of Scotland’sbiggest employers have come out to highlight the impact of uncertainty anddelay.
SSE, the Weir Group, Scottish Engineering.
Every one of them has made the point that theuncertainty caused by a stalled referendum will impact on business decisions.
And business decisions impact on employment inScotland.
Delay today kills jobs tomorrow.
So, I say to the SNP:
Let’s work together, get the wheels in motion,and allow the people to decide their future in five hundred days.
But of all the issues surrounding that referendum perhaps theone about which there has been most debate is whether there should be onequestion or two.
Every political party in Scotland wants one.
Including most of the SNP.
But the First Minister wants a second option.
He wants it so much that he tried to get other parties toprovide it.
Then he tried to get civic Scotland to give him cover forproposing it.
And now he’s grasping at any and every passing idea – devo max,devo plus, devo maybe – in unseemly haste with the purpose of defining it.
That won’t do.
It’s not just that we need a simple yes-no question to provide aclear answer.
But for us – for Liberal Democrats – the reasons for rejectingthat approach are more profound.
Independence and devolution aretwo separate things.
And the two should never be side by side on the same ballotpaper.
An empowered Scotlandwithin the UKis not a second choice for us – so it shouldn’t be a second question either.
Home rule is our number one priority, and a stand aloneproposition.
It is also the destination of choice for the Scottish people.
Poll after poll shows that the Scottish people want more powersfor the Scottish Parliament within the strength and security of the United Kingdom.
Their view is our view.
Liberal Democrats were in tune with the Scottish people when wecampaigned for a Scottish Parliament.
When we worked cross-party on the Calman Commission.
And now, in government, as Jim Wallace and I take the ScotlandBill through Parliament.
The largest ever transfer of financial power from London to Edinburgh.
But the appetite for further change is still there.
So Willie Rennie is right to form the Home Rule Commission,chaired by Ming Campbell, bringing sharp focus to home rule in twenty firstcentury Scotland.
This is a moment for Liberal Democrats once again to lead thedebate.
Friends, we are here today because we share a commitment.
We care about our party, about Scotland,and about our place in the United Kingdom - and beyond.
But most of all, in this party, we care about people.
Structures come second to the experiences of daily life.
Liberal Democrats want a future that is free, fair and green.
In government, we are delivering that.
Scotland’s government at Westminster is empoweringour local communities.
It is greening our politics
And it is improving our pensions, providing opportunity andinjecting fairness into a tax system that has favoured the wealthy over theneedy.
In this – all of this – in the toughest of times, we standtogether in the United Kingdom.
Scotland in Britain,stronger together, poorer apart.