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30.01.13

Scottish independence question ‘must be reworded’

The independence referendum question should be replaced with more neutral wording, the Electoral Commission has concluded.

Its assessment of the Scottish Government’s proposed question has been published today, and says the question uses clear, simple and easy to understand language.

But the original question – ‘Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country? Yes/No’ – could potentially encourage people to vote yes.

The Electoral Commission recommends the question should be altered to: ‘Should Scotland be an independent country? Yes/No’

The report also found that voters want factual information ahead of the referendum, and urges both UK and Scottish Governments to clarify what process will follow the referendum for either outcome.

Spending limits for the campaign were suggested by the Electoral Commission as £1,500,000 for the designated lead campaigners.

For political parties represented in the Scottish Parliament, the spending limits are:

Scottish National Party: £1,344,000
Scottish Labour: £834,000
Scottish Conservative & Unionist Party: £396,000
Scottish Liberal Democrats: £201,000
Scottish Green Party: £150,000

Other registered campaigners: £150,000

John McCormick, Electoral Commissioner for Scotland said: “We have rigorously tested the proposed question, speaking to a wide range of people across Scotland. Any referendum question must be, and be seen to be, neutral. People told us that they felt the words ‘Do you agree’ could lead voters towards voting ‘yes’.

“People had a clear understanding that ‘independent country’ meant being separate from the UK. But they did want factual information in advance about what will happen after the referendum. We’re asking the UK and Scottish Government to provide that clarity and we’ll then make sure it gets to voters as part of our public awareness campaign.”

“The campaign spending limits we have recommended are designed to ensure there are no barriers to voters hearing from campaigners in what will be a historic vote for the people of Scotland.

“We have listened carefully to the views of the Scottish Government and to campaigners, and have set out proposals based on our principles that spending limits should allow effective campaigning for all outcomes, deter excessive spending and encourage transparency.”

The Scottish Parliament will have the final say.

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at opinion@publicsectorexecutive.com

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