Response to the Scottish Government Consultation

The following is One Dynamic Nation’s official response to the Scottish Government’s consultation on the referendum for Independence

1 What are your views on the referendum question and the design of the ballot paper?
A single straightforward question should be asked, agreed with the Electoral Commission and consulted over by a committee of unbiased experts – with a simple, unbiased and unambiguous yes/no response invited. The current question strikes of bias and is an attempt to appeal to emotions. A more straightforward and unbiased question would be “Do you want Scotland to remain a part of the United Kingdom?”
The overall design of the ballot paper is acceptable

2 What are your views on the proposed timetable and voting arrangements?
The referendum needs to be held as soon as practicable to end uncertainty. Scotland is already noticing the effects of a “wait and see” policy being employed by its many Stakeholders. 2014 seems late but if that is the earliest that a fair, legal and decisive referendum can be set up to be run then this would be acceptable. However we find it strange that a referendum could not be held sometime in 2013 and would question why the timetable places the earliest opportunity as some time in the Autumn of 2014.
The voting arrangements seem to provide for a fair referendum and the division of responsibility makes sense.

3 What are your views on the inclusion of a second question in the referendum and the voting system that could be used?
A single straightforward question should be asked, agreed with the Electoral Commission and consulted over by a committee of unbiased experts – with a simple, unbiased and unambiguous yes/no response invited.
Any second question leads to confusion and may lead people to question the motives for asking it.
There is only one question that should be asked and that is “Do you want Scotland remain a part of the United Kingdom?”
Any discussion on more devolved powers needs to wait until after that question is answered and, provided the decision is made to remain in the UK, should be part of a negotiation on what devolved powers it is appropriate to give to all the constituent parts of the UK – including England. Scotland cannot be seen as a special case if it as an equal partner in the Union

4 What are your views on the proposal to give the Electoral Management Board and its Convener responsibility for the operational management of the referendum?
Under the terms detailed this seems fair and reasonable division of responsibility

5 What are your views on the proposed division of roles between the Electoral Management Board and the Electoral Commission?
Under the terms detailed this seems fair and reasonable division of responsibility

6 What are your views on the idea that the referendum could be held on a Saturday or on other ways that would facilitate voting?
This is referendum that will come under close scrutiny from all sides and interested parties. Any attempt at changing the existing process for this referendum will attract criticism of trying to alter the parameters of the vote for advantage – even if done with the best of intentions. This vote must follow the existing framework.
Postal votes deal effectively with access to the poll for those who are unavailable on the day.

7 What are your views on extending the franchise to those aged 16 and 17 years who are eligible to be registered on the electoral register?
This is referendum that will come under close scrutiny from all sides and interested parties. Any attempt at changing the existing process for this referendum will attract criticism of trying to alter the parameters of the vote for advantage – even if done with the best of intentions. This vote must follow the existing framework.
Extending the vote to 16/17 year olds is worth exploring but not for this referendum.

8 What are your views on the proposed spending limits?
The spending limits seem fair.
Is 16 weeks a normal term for regulation before such a poll? General elections are fought over a much shorter timescale.
Does this mean that each campaign side is free to spend as much as they can before the 16 week period? There have already been some sizeable donations made that breach the limits stated.

9 Do you have any other comments about the proposals in the draft Referendum (Scotland) Bill?
If it accurately reflects the intent and substance of the main consultation text then “no”.
However we find it strange to find this question at the end of a section headed “After the referendum.”
In the spirit of fairness there is also no mention of what would happen if the vote were for remaining in the UK in this section and this seems out of kilter with the commitment to fairness established in the rest of the consultation. It almost pre-supposes the result.