1.1 In January 2012, the Scottish Government launched a public consultation to gather views on its proposals for undertaking a referendum on Scottish independence. This report sets out the findings of an independent analysis of the consultation responses that were submitted to the Scottish Government.
Background to the consultation
1.2 The Scottish Government was elected in 2011 with a mandate to hold a democratic referendum on Scotland's constitutional future during the current (2011-2016) Parliamentary term. The question of Scottish independence has been widely debated by politicians, academics, business leaders and other public figures, north and south of the border and elsewhere.
1.3 In preparation for the referendum, the Scottish Government produced a draft Referendum (Scotland) Bill which set out a proposed legal framework for conducting the referendum. The Scottish Government then undertook a consultation to gather views on specific aspects of the draft Bill. The consultation document, 'Your Scotland, Your Referendum', was published on 25 January 2012, and the public consultation was open until 11 May 2012.
Description of the consultation document
1.4 'Your Scotland, Your Referendum' sought views on a range of issues including: the timetable for the referendum; the wording of the referendum question and design of the ballot paper; the franchise and proposals for increasing voter turnout; the arrangements for the operational management and oversight of the referendum; and proposals for spending limits for campaigning organisations.
1.5 The consultation document contained nine open-ended questions:
- Question 1: What are your views on the referendum question and the design of the ballot paper?
- Question 2: What are your views on the proposed timetable and voting arrangements?
- Question 3: What are your views on the inclusion of a second question in the referendum and the voting system that could be used?
- Question 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?
- Question 5: What are your views on the proposed division of roles between the Electoral Management Board and the Electoral Commission?
- Question 6: What are your views on the idea that the referendum could be held on a Saturday or on other ways which would make voting easier?
- Question 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?
- Question 8: What are your views on the proposed spending limits?
- Question 9: Do you have any other comments about the proposals in the draft Referendum (Scotland) Bill?
1.6 The consultation document also addressed a range of other issues that were not the subject of specific questions, including:
- The powers of the Scottish Parliament to legislate for a referendum
- The proposal that the referendum outcome should be based on a simple majority of the votes cast, without any requirement for a minimum turnout
- The eligibility to vote (apart from the specific proposal to extend the franchise to 16 and 17 year olds which was the subject of Question 7)
- Provisions to enable people with disabilities to exercise their right to vote
- The costs of the referendum
- The transition arrangements if the outcome of the referendum is in favour of independence.
Structure of this report
1.7 The next chapter (Chapter 2) provides further information about the process by which the consultation was conducted and the number and types of responses received. Chapter 3 describes the approach taken to the analysis of consultation responses. The findings of the analysis are then presented, on a question-by-question basis, in Chapters 4 to 11.
Email: Alison Stout