referendum

Electoral Reform Society Scotland Calls For Constitutional Convention As Referendum Shows 'Nations Divided'

24th June 2016
24 Jun 2016
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ERS Scotland
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Electoral Reform Society Calls For Constitutional Convention As Referendum Shows 'Nations Divided'

  • ERS Scotland warns of “constitutional chaos” as Scotland, Northern Ireland and London vote remain despite overall ‘leave’ result
  • Scottish independence back on agenda as Salmond predicts second independence referendum and Greens launch petition to keep Scotland in EU
  • Campaigners criticise “piecemeal and ad hoc” approach to previous constitutional change, and calls for “joined-up deliberation” which “lets the public in”

Statement from Electoral Reform Society Scotland for immediate release, June 24th, 2016

For media enquiries, contact: Rory Scothorne, ERS Scotland Campaigns Organiser (Policy), on rory.scothorne@electoral-reform.org.uk or 07988157783, or Katie Gallogly-Swan, ERS Scotland Campaigns Organiser, on Katie.galloglyswan@electoral-reform.org.uk or 07930862497

The Electoral Reform Society Scotland has called for a constitutional convention to avoid “constitutional chaos” after the UK voted to leave the European Union - despite Scotland, London and Northern Ireland voting to remain.

ERS Scotland criticised the “piecemeal and ad hoc” approach to previous constitutional change and are calling for future change to involve "joined-up deliberation" to “let the public in” following the conflicted result.

Scotland voted to remain in the EU by 62% to 38%, with every local authority voting for remain, but 52% of the UK as a whole voted to leave. The result has led to renewed calls for Scotland to find a way of staying in the EU despite the UK-wide result, with the Scottish Green Party launching a petition called “keep Scotland in Europe” which asks Holyrood’s politicians to “examine and exhaust every option for continuing Scotland’s close ties with Europe.”

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has previously said that if Scotland voted to remain while the UK as a whole voted to leave, it could constitute a sufficient “material change” to justify another referendum on Scottish independence from the UK. Former SNP leader Alex Salmond has predicted that Sturgeon would now “implement the SNP manifesto” which proposed a second referendum under such circumstances.

Spokesperson for ERS Scotland Rory Scothorne said:

“We are clearly in uncharted political waters here. The governments of the UK should very quickly issue a joint holding statement on how they might plot a course through this turbulent constitutional time. This vote poses big questions about the constitution of the UK as a political entity going forward, with the UK’s nations divided. Without action now we risk descending into constitutional chaos, and it’s vital that the public are involved in the discussions that lie ahead about the ramifications of this split vote.  

"Despite an unremittingly negative campaign, people took their democratic duty seriously and turned out in higher than expected numbers. The public's appetite to engage in constitutional issues, seen first in the independence referendum and reflected in yesterday’s turnout – higher than the recent Holyrood election – is clear. The referendum should mark the beginning not the end of involving the public in shaping future democracy in Scotland and the UK.

“It’s more clear than ever that we need a citizen-led constitutional convention to bring citizens and politicians together to seriously discuss the democratic future of the UK. The constitutional changes we’ve seen in recent years have been piecemeal and ad hoc – it’s time for some joined-up deliberation and to let the public in. All parties across the UK should now come together to discuss how best to start this essential process.”  

ENDS

ERS SCOTLAND UNVEILS RECOMMENDATIONS FOR A GOOD SCOTTISH DEMOCRACY

25th August 2013
25 Aug 2013
Tags: 
democracy
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The Electoral Reform Society Scotland has outlined a series of recommendations stemming from members of the public who participated in their 13-month Democracy Max inquiry.

These ideas are aimed at improving Scottish democracy in the context of the independence referendum. 

The key recommendations of Democracy Max are:

 

  • ‘Mini-Publics’ – deliberative local groups working alongside representative democracy and empowering people to run their own towns and villages
  • A Citizens’ Assembly – a chamber of citizens, possibly selected like a jury, to check and challenge elected politicians
  • Party funding reform – parties funded in transparent ways other than through big donations from organisations or rich individuals
  • Better media – as traditional business models struggle and press barons are exposed, our participants suggested ways for a greater number of voices to be heard and for media to operate more explicitly in the public interest
  • Openness and transparency – an assumption that information should be publicly available and a requirement to make the case as to why any information is not
  • Lobbying reform – a statutory register of lobbying which sets out who is lobbying whom and why
  • Constitutional clarity – a written set of principles for Scots to unite around, setting out who we are and by which rules we wish to be governed
  •  

    An inbuilt system to review and advise on how the Scottish Parliament and Government are faring in abiding by these principles

Scotland is mulling its political and constitutional future against a backdrop of growing distrust and disengagement in politics. In this context, the Electoral Reform Society Scotland has been asking the question: ‘What would make a good Scottish Democracy?’


The process began in July last year when the ERS Scotland brought together a cross-section of over 80 Scots from a range of places and backgrounds to a day-long ‘People’s Gathering’ and asked them what was wrong with politics and democracy and what could be made better. Over the last year they have taken the findings of that People’s Gathering and discussed them with experts, academics, campaigners, activists and others in roundtable sessions, each followed by a public meeting.

 

On Monday evening at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, ERS Scotland will launch its final report, ‘A vision of a good Scottish democracy’.  

 

Willie Sullivan, ERS Scotland Director, said:

 

“We believe that the Scottish independence referendum debate is an opportunity to challenge our political system to change, to confound the low expectations voters have of politics, and to deliver on the high hopes they still hold for democracy.

 

“We started from the position that politics is too important to be left to politicians. So we asked our People’s Gathering to tell us what they thought was wrong with democracy and what could be made better. But we didn’t just take them at their word. Instead we continued to discuss, question and delve in order to understand more fully what was not working and to make sure the solutions we suggested were credible and workable.

 

“It was clear from the investigation that formal politics is in trouble and, rightly or wrongly, people blame political parties for much of that. If trust is to be returned to politics some fundamental changes are required.

 

“I am delighted to say the participants in our investigation have suggested a number of thought-provoking ideas. Many of them are not new, but they do have a renewed relevance at this time. We have weighed up the pros and cons of each in our discussions and feel they deserve consideration as interventions to improve our democracy. We suspect some of them are more vital than others and so should be acted on quickly.

 

“There are some big ideas for political reform here, such as a Citizens’ Assembly as a second chamber of parliament, selected like a jury, and Mini-Publics where people can run their own communities. It may seem strange that an organisation that has campaigned for fairer elections for over 130 years is saying that we require more involvement of ordinary citizens rather than elected representatives in decision-making and scrutiny. However our belief in the importance of representative democracy has led us to realise that in a time of untrusted elites, social media and ‘big data’ we need to evolve our political system to keep pace with the 21st century. The involvement of people who are not primarily concerned with power or with winning elections means that representative democracy can be given a new legitimacy by having the right checks against the powerful. This is not an alternative to elections but a way to return legitimacy to elected representatives.”

ENDS

Contact:

Willie Sullivan willie.sullivan@electoral-reform.org.uk or 07940 523842

Juliet Swann juliet.swann@electoral-reform.org.uk or 07968 527561

Notes

The full report can be downloaded here

Allowing charities to campaign in the independence referendum will improve the standard of debate

25th July 2013
25 Jul 2013
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referendum
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The Electoral Reform Society Scotland has welcomed the fact that charities and voluntary groups will be free to campaign actively in next year’s independence referendum.

 

The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) has given voluntary sector organisations the green light for campaigning on either side of the referendum question, provided it is in line with the pursuit of their own objectives. ERS Scotland has been advocating this reform on the basis that it will improve the quality of the debate around independence.

Willie Sullivan, director of ERS Scotland, said:

“Allowing charities to campaign in the independence referendum will make all the difference to the quality of the debate.

“The danger with referendums is that the public is not provided with the space for an informed and constructive debate. Research suggests that people, when faced with conflicting referendum campaigns dominated by political parties, tend to take their cue from the parties they support rather than vote on the question itself.  And the effect of partisanship and negativity on both sides of a referendum campaign can make it hard for people to access high-quality information and argument.

“Now that charities have been given the go-ahead to enter the fray, Scottish people should expect a much higher standard of debate. What’s more, this decision should help to increase voter engagement and turnout. Voluntary organisations in Scotland have thousands of members, many of whom will be brought into the debate through charities’ involvement.

The independence referendum is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Scottish people to engage with questions around the future of Scottish democracy. The OSCR’s decision improves the chances that the referendum debate will be as high-quality and inclusive as the independence question deserves.”

Scotland deserves debate and democracy

9th March 2012
9 Mar 2012
Tags: 
scotland
devolution
scottish independence
referendum
votes at 16

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Scotland deserves debate and democracy

The Electoral Reform Society in Scotland has today (Friday March 9th) submitted a response to the Westminster Government’s consultation: Scotland’s Constitutional Future.

Reflecting on the submission, Willie Sullivan, Director of ERS Scotland said:

If any referendum on Scotland’s future is to accurately represent the views of the Scottish people it must offer a real choice. It is clear that Independence or the Status Quo cannot be the only things on the menu.
Avoiding a ‘second question’ represents a false choice. It risks not giving the Scottish people a the choice of a future which polling shows many of them can unite around.

ERS Scotland does not have a position on which options should be included but would urge all parties to work to present clear choices to the voters. Scots will then be able to vote for the status quo or change. They will then have the opportunity to decide on the flavour of change that works for them.

The debate must consider what best serves Scottish democracy. Our experience with the Alternative Vote referendum suggests a lengthy lead in time. To that end, we support the Scottish Government’s proposal of an Autumn 2014 ballot.

There is no reason why 16 and 17 year olds should not be able to vote in this and all elections. However, we would strongly caution against a ‘false franchise’ made up only of ‘attainers’ - those 16 and 17 year olds who will have their birthday before the30th November after the polling day.

ERS Scotland plans to run a series of debates and public meetings discussing Scotland’s democracy over the next eighteen months. We look forward to both the UK and Scottish Government’s responses to their consultations and hope a clear, responsible and democratic decision can be made on how to run the poll.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

The key conclusions from the response are:
 

  • The Scottish Government has a mandate to call a referendum on Scotland’s constitution the proposition and timing of such a referendum should be decided by the Scottish Parliament with the question, planning and organisation of the poll managed by the Electoral Commission in Scotland under the rules set out in the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000.
  • A Section 30 order is the best option to ensure legal clarity. It would be extremely irresponsible to allow this matter to be contested in the courts and possibly damaging to the democratic institutions in Edinburgh and at Westminster.
  • Should a section 30 order be used, it should be made with only limited conditions attached in order to ensure:
  1. That the referendum is conducted using the amended generic PPERA rules.
  2. That the Electoral Commission in Scotland has responsibility for consulting on the wording of the question, and for the operation of the poll.
  3. That lines of accountability and reporting to both parliaments are clear and unambiguous and do not allow for any political interference in the operation of the poll.
  • The process of the Scotland Bill be put on hold until the referendum has been held and a decision taken by the Scottish people.
  • We support the extension of the franchise to 16 and 17 year olds for all UK elections. This should not be done only for the referendum but for all public elections in Scotland. Additionally, we would not wish to see a ‘false franchise’ established by only allowing ‘attainers ’ to vote rather than all 16 and 17 year olds. Given the franchise is a reserved matter we would hope the UK Government would work with the Scottish Government to provide for this.
  • Our experience from the AV referendum is that proper debate, analysis and questioning of the arguments takes a good deal of time. Campaigns will present misinformation and partial arguments which can only be challenged and bottomed out over significant timescales. Therefore, we would favour a longer time for arguments to be fully tested and worked through, and for public information and arguments to disseminate into the public consciousness.
  • We feel that given current debates and state of Scottish public opinion, the best way to find out where consensus might be found is to hold a two question referendum with a so called gateway question on Status Quo v Change and a second question on Devo Max v Independence. The result of the second question will only be relevant if the first question is a positive vote for change. Any format that does not allow all three main options to be considered during the one campaign is unsatisfactory.
  • In response to arguments that the two questions (of independence or more powers) are separate constitutional issues, we would suggest that such labelling is disingenuous. Any change in powers will have to be negotiated between the Scottish Government and Westminster regardless of their extent. The referendum is to determine the preference of the Scottish people, in and of itself it will not change the constitution. We have some sympathy with Peter Kellner of YouGov’s position, expressed during the Scottish Affairs Committee of March 7th March 2012, that once that negotiation has taken place the proposals agreed between the two Governments should be put to the Scottish public in a second referendum.

ERS welcome Salmond-Moore discussions

13th February 2012
13 Feb 2012
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scotland
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ERS welcome Salmond-Moore discussions


As the First Minister and the Scottish Secretary have met to discuss how the referendum vote should be run, ERS Scotland appeals to both sides to consider what is the most democratic route forwards and to ensure all voices are heard.

 

Juliet Swann, Campaigns and Research Officer with the Electoral Reform Society in Scotland commented:

 

It’s great that Salmond and Moore have met and begun to iron out the technicalities of the referendum. The debate ahead requires respect and recognition of the Scottish Parliament’s mandate over Scotland’s affairs.

 

“Once the details are agreed, it is vital that an independent non-partisan body tests and verifies the question, and that the poll is organised and managed in a similarly independent manner. We are pleased the Scottish Government has accepted the role of the Electoral Commission and we have every confidence in them to do this job.

 

“We must bear in mind that the Holyrood system was not set up to manage majority Government, which makes the role of the Commission available to the Parliament as a whole as an independent monitor all the more important. Part and parcel of discussions around a good Scottish democracy must include an evaluation on how to make our devolved institution as democratic and accountable as possible. This crucial debate must be had in a thoughtful and open fashion.”

The people's campaign launches

2nd April 2011
2 Apr 2011
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yes campaign
av
alternative vote
referendum
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eddie izzard
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The people’s campaign launches

At the event a packed room of people passionate about change came together to hear some of the Vice Chairs of the campaign; Kriss Akabusi, Amisha Ghadiali, Eddie Izzard, Greg Dyke, Rowan Davies and Martin Bell, talk about why they are supporting the Alternative Vote.

The Electoral Reform Society has been campaigning to update our electoral system for over a hundred years and in May we finally have the chance to scrap our broken system and replace it with a better one that will see politicians having to work harder for our votes.

With just four weeks to go, the media and wider public are waking up to the exciting reality of the referendum.

The reality is that we finally have a chance to do something about the cynicism and let-downs that have too long dictated our votes. This is our once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to improve the way we do politics in the UK.

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society and Chair of Yes to fairer votes

In the last few weeks before the referendum the Yes! campaign will be pulling out all the stops to get people into the polling stations and saying yes to fairer votes.

All together now

21st April 2011
21 Apr 2011
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alternative vote
av
referendum
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All together now

With the date of the referendum approaching fast the campaign is really heating up.

We know that this is our one chance to change the rules by which MPs get and stay in power and in the last couple of weeks there is all to play for.

Local campaigners and volunteers across the country have been pulling out all the stops at events, street stalls, banner drops and in phonebanks UK-wide to get people excited about this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change politics for the better.

If you have some time over the bank holiday weekends why not see how you can get involved and help push for that all important Yes vote on 5 May."

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society and Chair of Yes to fairer votes