MURDO Fraser has offered to perform a citizen’s arrest on the First Minister and other “guilty men and women” over misinformation around the 2014 indyref.

The Tory MSP made the remark earlier today while illustrating why he wouldn’t support measures to introduce criminal penalties for untrue claims made in referendum campaigns.

Candidates can currently face action for false statements made in election campaigns and, as Holyrood’s cross-party Finance and Constitution Committee considered the draft Referendums Bill, Patrick Harvie of the Greens called for the same standard to apply to parties and other participants in referenda.

He said the outcome of the 2016 Brexit vote would have been overturned if such provision was already in place across the UK. Referencing “objectively false” claims about the EU preventing the UK from taking action to protect polar bears. 

Harvie said: “The 2016 vote would not have stood up to the additional scrutiny, would not have been regarded as having the same legitimacy has an election given the practices we all know have taken place.”

But Constitutional Relations Secretary Michael Russell said the legal move could curb freedom of speech and deter people from taking part in public contest – making less, not more, reliable information available.

READ MORE: Johnson's history reveals votes against equality and climate

And he suggested it could lead to a “flurry of court action” which would disrupt democracy.

Outlining his opposition, Fraser said: “We were told that if we voted No in 2014 the NHS in Scotland would be privatised. Clearly that was an untrue and false statement. And we were told in 2014 that that would be a once-in-a-generation vote, or indeed a once-in-a-lifetime vote as the First Minister had it, and that clearly has turned out not to be a true statement.

“So if the proposal from Patrick Harvie is that those responsible for making those statement including the current First Minister and indeed the cabinet secretary and perhaps Mr Harvie himself should be hauled before the court and accused of a criminal offence, then I have a certain enthusiasm for that viewpoint.

“Indeed, if it would be helpful I could make a citizen’s arrest to help the authorities in addressing these issues.”

Describing the interpretation of false claims as “subjective”, he concluded: “I think that just highlights the concerns around this particular approach.”

Labour’s Jackie Baillie argued for a confirmatory vote to be a key part of legislation going through Holyrood, which sets out how future ballots would take place, and said it was “hypocritical” for the Scottish Government to oppose this, given Russell and Nicola Sturgeon’s support for a “people’s vote” on Brexit.

Russell said “automatic second referendums are not required”, except from cases like the 2016 ballot “where the information provided to voters was flawed” or “where circumstances have changed, where things are no longer what they were”.

The next stage of debate on the Bill is scheduled to take place on Thursday December 19.