FUTURE referendums in the UK could require a "supermajority" in order to enact constitutional change, under a bill proposed at Westminster.

Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) MP Ian Paisley, the son of the party’s founder, put forward the bill in the House of Commons on Tuesday.

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Paisley’s Referendums (Supermajority) Bill would “require a supermajority of votes in favour of a proposal for constitutional change on which a referendum is being held in order for it to be decided in the affirmative”.

The bill has now had its “first reading”, and will soon be published as a House of Commons paper.

Paisley’s bill will be given its second reading – where MPs can debate its content and principles – on January 20, 2023.

The MP for North Antrim’s proposal looks to be aimed at potential reunification referendums on the island of Ireland. Sinn Fein said Paisley wanted to "give Unionism a veto over the rest of us".

Sinn Fein MP Chris Hazzard told The National: “It’s clear that the DUP are having trouble respecting democracy.

“Not content with refusing to accept the outcome of May’s Assembly election because they didn’t like the result, they now want the law changed to give Unionism a veto over the rest of us in a democratic referendum on our constitutional future.”

There is no set definition of a “supermajority”, and the scant details of Paisley’s bill do not make clear exactly how the term would be defined.

In the run-up to the Holyrood election in 2021, the term was given fresh relevance as the Alba Party bid to return a “supermajority” of pro-independence MSPs at Holyrood.

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While the party’s leader, Alex Salmond, never officially defined its meaning, the term was widely taken to mean two-thirds of the total. This is how a supermajority is defined in the 2016 Scotland Act.

Commenting on Paisley's bill, an Alba spokesperson told The National: “Unionists continually deny democracy but they are nonetheless keen to try rig any future referendums that will break up the United Kingdom. The DUP are taking a page out of the book of Scottish Unionists of the past who rigged the Scottish devolution referendum threshold to block a Scottish Parliament even though a majority voted for it. 

“It will be interesting to see which Scottish Unionist MPs offer their support to the DUPs democracy denying bill. The people of Scotland have voted for a referendum on their future, no Westminster politician has the authority to deny that mandate and the Scottish Government must not allow them to keep doing so.”

During her brief time as prime minister, there were reports that Liz Truss was looking to alter the rules around referendums to make it so that 50%+1 of the entire electorate – not only the people who vote – had to back an option in order for change to be enacted.

At the time, Truss was accused of attempting to “gerrymander” the democratic process.

The DUP have been approached for comment.