Process is over, now time for the real campaign

On 15 October the so-called Edinburgh Agreement was signed by the Prime Minister, David Cameron, and the First Minister, Alex Salmond. This finally settled months of debate with both the UK and Scottish governments agreeing to hold a one question referendum on independence for Scotland by the end of 2014.

Throughout this process the UK Government, has accepted that the Scottish Government has a mandate to hold a referendum on independence for Scotland and it has worked constructively to deliver a fair, legal and decisive referendum. The Edinburgh Agreement shows that the UK Government has delivered this with a single, straightforward question being agreed.

The final details in terms of the actual date, the wording of the question and the franchise will be agreed by the Scottish Parliament when the Scottish Government brings forward its legislation. However the Government has already indicated how it intends to proceed with some aspects and the much anticipated consultation responses have been published which also indicate what the Government will propose. ODN will look at this in more detail in this month’s article taking into account the responses to the Scottish Government’s consultation.

The date
ODN and the three major pro UK parties wanted the referendum to be held as soon as possible but the UK Government accepted the timetable of by the end of 2014. The indication is that the referendum will be held in the autumn. Of those who responded to the consultation on the proposed referendum timetable, 62% agreed.

Media speculate it could possibly be held on a Saturday in October 2014. Of those who commented on the issue of Saturday voting, 46% agreed with holding the referendum on a Saturday and 32% did not.

The question
In terms of the wording of the question, the UK Government has secured a commitment from the Scottish Government to use the independent Electoral Commission to monitor details of the referendum.

However, the Scottish Government has again publicly stated its intention to proceed with “Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?” with “Yes” and “No” answers. It should be noted that 64% of consultation respondents agreed with this question.

ODN has concerns with it but respects the right of the Government to propose it and we hope the Government also respects the right of the Electoral Commission to criticise and reject it. The three main pro UK parties set up their own independent panel of experts to propose a question but this has been ignored by the Scottish Government.

The franchise
The other big area of debate was the franchise, and as part of the agreement it is up to the Scottish Parliament to decide whether 16 and 17 years old should have the vote. It looks likely only the Scottish Conservatives will oppose this when legislation comes to the Parliament – the party has stated it prefers we focus instead on the 6 in 10 people aged 18-24 who do not vote rather than extending the franchise.

In 2004, the Electoral Commission backed the position that no change should be made to the age of electoral majority. It also seems that significant administrative hurdles will mean that votes at 16 will be impossible to properly implement.

Of those respondents who commented on the issue of extending the franchise to 16 and 17 year olds, 56% broadly agreed with extending the franchise and 41% did not. It looks likely therefore that 16/17 year olds will have the vote.

The second question
Interestingly the whole debate about a second question entertained the media. There was debate over whether the SNP wanted a second question or whether civic Scotland wanted a second question on the issue of so-called devolution max/plus. Of those respondents who commented on the issue of a second question, 32% were broadly in favour of including a second question and 62% were not.

This of course backs up the position of the UK Government and ODN and the three pro UK parties. The Edinburgh Agreement also ensures there will only be one question and it is right this is the case.

The future
So the process if finally over and the real debate can begin on Scotland’s future. ODN will hopefully play its part in this debate outlining the positive reasons for Scotland remaining part of the UK and promote a sense of British national identity amongst Scots. We have already being doing this on our website, in our emails and on Facebook, Twitter and Flickr.

In terms of the political parties Conservative Friends of Union has 50,000 registered supporters and has raised nearly £200,000. It is unclear what Labour or the Lib Dems are doing.

However the main focus for the media and even the public is on the official cross party Better Together organisation. We trust they will fight a positive and clean campaign. We want Better Together to organise inclusive campaign events; outline the reasons that Scotland benefits from the UK and how the UK benefits from Scotland; and at every chance take apart the case for independence, if there are any.

One Dynamic Nation is delighted the process is over and we can now get to work to save our United Kingdom.