scottish independence

Scotland deserves debate and democracy

9th March 2012
9 Mar 2012
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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
Tags: 
scotland
referendum
devolution
scottish independence
voting systems

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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.”

Trust the Scottish people to take the best path for our future

25th January 2012
25 Jan 2012
Tags: 
scotland
scottish independence
devolution

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Trust the Scottish people to take the best path for our future

The Electoral Reform Society Scotland welcomes the Scottish Government’s consultation on the proposed Independence referendum, and the acknowledgement from the First Minister that the choices we now face are fundamentally matters of democracy.

In that spirit, we would caution that the debate should rise above party politics and vested interests.

ERS Scotland’s Director Willie Sullivan said:

“All polling suggests that the Scottish people are clustering around three main options: status quo, so called Devo Max, and Independence.

“If there is only to be one question then the structure is straightforward; a simple Yes or No for Independence.

“If the consultation responses indicate that the Scottish people want the opportunity to vote on all three options, then the best way to do this would be to ask two questions on the same ballot paper: The first asking yes or no to any change and the second to determine what level of change. This approach was recently road-tested in New Zealand.

“This is by far the simplest and fairest way to ensure that everyone gets a real say but we are concerned that instead of ensuring that it’s the Scottish people who have a chance to determine Scotland’s future, the debate among politicians is becoming polarised and disingenuous.”

The debate on the ‘Claim of Right’ tomorrow (26 January) represents an historic opportunity to address wider questions of Scotland’s constitution and democracy.

Willie Sullivan added:

“Thursday’s debate is an important opportunity to consider what the idea of sovereignty lying with the people actually means and how we can make this a reality.

“We challenge all parties to set out how they will ensure that power in Scotland is awarded and exercised fairly and that representatives can be held to account in a manner that supports a good society.”

The Electoral Reform Society Scotland is currently developing a programme of work called ‘Demo Max’, launching in the spring, to investigate the attributes of a ‘good Scottish democracy’ in this changing constitutional climate.

ENDS

For comment contact Willie Sullivan, Director of ERS Scotland on 07940523842

Notes to Editors

[1] The New Zealand voting system referendum of 26 November 2011 followed this model. Sample ballot papers are available online:
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/3e/NZ_voting_referendum_...

[2] Demo Max will be a programme of investigation over 18 months into what makes a good Scottish Democracy. The discussions will be based around three main themes
1) Sovereignty of the People – how is the ideal made real?
2) Protecting People Power – How to ensure the state is not unduly influenced by vested interests ( i,e Media proprietors, Lobbyists , Financial Industry )
3) Institutions of State – How is a good Scottish Democracy described, codified and embedded in the institutions and processes of the State.
The programme will consist of high level seminars, public discussions, virtual and real, reports and publications at relevant points. We hope to involve a wide range of individuals and agencies.