Draft referendum bill: consultation analysis

Independent analysis of responses to the consultation on a draft referendum bill, held between October 2016 and January 2017.

2. About the respondents and responses

2.1 This chapter presents information about the respondents and types of responses received in the consultation.

Number of responses received and number included in the analysis

2.2 Altogether, 7,667 consultation responses were received. Of these, 80 were received by email or post; the remainder were submitted electronically using the online response form available via the Scottish Government's Consultation Hub webpage.

2.3 Of the 7,667 responses received, 469 were removed prior to analysis for the following reasons:

  • 199 did not contain both a valid name and valid contact address. To be included as a valid response, a respondent had to give both his / her name - a first name or first initial and a surname - and a postal address or email address. Responses submitted using obviously fictional names were also removed.
  • 70 responses were entirely blank. These responses were submitted via the online response form and contained no comments in relation to any of the consultation questions.
  • 188 respondents submitted more than one response to the consultation. In some cases, this was because the respondent wished to amend or expand a response they had submitted earlier. In most cases, respondents submitted two different responses, although in a small number of cases the second response was an exact duplicate of the first response. A few respondents submitted three responses and one individual submitted four responses. All duplicate responses were removed, and multiple different responses from a single individual were combined to form a single composite response. This resulted in the removal of a further 200 responses.

2.4 Thus the analysis was based on 7,198 responses. (See Table 2.1.)

Table 2.1: Responses included in the analysis

Number of responses received: 7,667
Number of responses removed:  
  • Missing a valid name or a valid contact address
- 199
  • Blank responses
- 70
  • Duplicate / multiples responses removed
- 200
Total VALID responses: 7,198

Types of respondent

2.5 Respondents were asked to specify whether they were submitting their response as an individual, or on behalf of an organisation or group. The vast majority of respondents (n=7,157; 99%) were individuals. (See Table 2.2.)

Table 2.2: Types of respondent

Respondent type n %
Individuals 7,157 99%
Organisations or groups 41 1%
Total respondents 7,198 100%

2.6 The 41 organisations / groups who took part in the consultation included bodies with responsibility for overseeing elections and voter registration (the Electoral Commission, the Electoral Management Board for Scotland, Scottish Assessors Association Electoral Registration Committee); those with expertise in law (Law Society of Scotland); those responsible for liaising with the media in relation to campaign broadcasts (the Broadcasters' Liaison Group); and a range of third sector bodies, campaign groups and political groups. In addition, four Facebook groups submitted responses to the consultation. A complete list of the organisational / group respondents is attached at Annex 1 of this report, and Chapter 3 summarises the comments submitted by the five key organisational respondents named above.

Types of response

2.7 Analysis indicated that there were three main types of response to the consultation:

  • Type 1 (63% of responses): These responses engaged with the consultation questions, and contained a range of comments on the proposals in the consultation paper including, in some cases, agreement or disagreement.
  • Type 2 (15% of responses): These responses engaged with the consultation questions, but simply contained expressions of general satisfaction, agreement with, or acceptance of the proposals set out in the consultation paper - either overall or in relation to individual questions. In general, these responses contained no further comments that were directly related to the consultation, and the respondents gave no substantive explanation of why they agreed with the proposals. Rather they tended to make statements such as 'I am happy with this', 'No objections', 'This seems fair', or 'This is a reasonable approach'.
  • Type 3 (22% of responses): These responses contained comments which were not directly related to the consultation. The respondents who submitted these responses did not engage with the consultation questions or with any of the specific issues discussed in the consultation document. Rather, this group usually made statements about the need for a referendum, views on Scottish independence, views about Brexit, or other topics not directly related to the consultation.

2.8 The analysis presented in Chapters 3 to 5 of this report relates to Type 1 and Type 2 responses. A list of common themes in Type 3 responses is given in Chapter 6, together with other topics raised by respondents that were not directly related to the consultation. (See Annex 2 for a graphical representation of the different types of responses received in the consultation.)

Responses to individual questions

2.9 In responding to the consultation, people did not necessarily follow the questionnaire structure as set out in the consultation paper. Rather, they offered their comments in a more holistic topic-based way, using the space provided in the questionnaire across all five questions to say what they wanted, and often not engaging with the technical details set out in the text. Some respondents used only the space provided by the first two questions to say everything they wanted to say (both about the mechanics of the referendum and the referendum campaign rules), while others repeated the same comments across multiple questions.

2.10 Annex 3 contains details of the number of comments made at each question. However, given the points made above, the figures shown in Annex 3 should not be seen as representing 'response rates' for individual questions.


Email: Louise Scott,

Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
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