'Your Scotland, Your Referendum': An Analysis of Consultation Responses

This report presents the analysis of responses to the 'Your Scotland, Your Referendum' consultation on proposals for a referendum on Scottish independence. The consultation closed on 11 May 2012.


How responses were received

On-line submission

2.1 The Scottish Government set up a dedicated website to provide information about the consultation, including the consultation document and the standard response form containing all nine questions.[2] Respondents could submit their responses directly through the response form on this website. In addition, during the period of the consultation, anyone visiting the main Scottish Government website (www.scotland.gov.uk) was presented with a pop-up window inviting them to take part in the consultation. This linked directly to the on-line response form.

Submission by email or post

2.2 Respondents could also submit their responses by email or by post to the Scottish Government's Elections and Constitutional Development Division.

Submission through political party websites and other 'campaign' responses

2.3 Both the Scottish Labour Party and the Scottish National Party (SNP) invited their supporters to submit responses through their websites. In both cases, a standard 'campaign' response was provided, covering different subsets of the nine questions in the consultation document. Individuals could simply add their names and email addresses to the standard campaign response and submit it without change. There was also the option for individuals to modify the prepared response before submitting it. Any responses submitted through the Scottish Labour Party and SNP websites were sent directly to the Scottish Government by email.

2.4 There was a smaller separate campaign based in and around Lanarkshire.[3] Most of the responses in this campaign were submitted to the Scottish Government by post, although some were also submitted through the Scottish Government's on-line response form. The origin of this campaign is not known.

2.5 Throughout the remainder of this report, the three campaigns will be referred to as: the Scottish Labour campaign, the SNP campaign and the Lanarkshire campaign. The standard prepared responses provided by the three campaigns are shown in Annex 1. Table 2.1 provides an overview of the content of each campaign text.

Table 2.1: Overview of content and method of submission for campaign responses

Organising group Content Method of submission
Scottish Labour Party Questions 1, 2, 3, 5 Email via the Scottish Labour Party website
Scottish National Party Questions 1, 2, 7 Email via the Scottish National Party website
Lanarkshire campaign Questions 1-9 Mainly by post with some via the Scottish Government's on-line response form

2.6 In addition, both the Scottish Labour and SNP campaign texts included a statement regarding whether the Scottish Parliament or the UK Government should have ultimate responsibility for organising the referendum. These statements do not relate directly to any of the nine questions.[4]

Number of responses included in the analysis

2.7 A total of 30,219 responses to the consultation were received. This included 23,569 that were submitted through the Scottish Government's on-line response form. The remaining 6,650 were received by email, post or through the Scottish Labour and Scottish National Party websites (see Table 2.2).

Table 2.2: Total responses received through different sources

Source of response Number of responses %
Scottish Government's on-line response form (includes a small number of the Lanarkshire campaign responses) 23,569 78%
Email / Post (includes most Lanarkshire campaign responses) 725 2%
Scottish Labour campaign 1,190 4%
SNP campaign 4,735 16%
Total 30,219 100%

2.8 An initial examination of the data indicated that the 30,219 responses were submitted by 29,056 respondents. Of these, 2,837 were removed from the analysis. These comprised:

  • 2,828 responses which did not have both a name and contact details: Any response that did not include both the respondent's name and contact details was not included in the analysis. Names had to include either the full first name and surname or the first initial and surname. Contact details could take the form of an email address, a postal address or simply a full postcode.
  • 9 joke / blank responses: These included responses that were either completely blank (submitted through the on-line response form), or were clearly intended as joke responses (for example, submissions from fictional or cartoon characters).

2.9 In addition, it was discovered that 1,098 respondents had submitted more than one response. Most of these had submitted two responses, and in many cases these two responses were exact duplicates.[5] However, a few respondents submitted three, four or five different responses. For these respondents a single composite response was created using all the text from their various submissions. This was to ensure that all of their comments were included in the analysis, but that, taken together, they counted as one response only. The only exception to this procedure was where one of the responses was a standard campaign response and the other a personal response; in these cases, the personal response was retained, and the campaign response was removed. This approach resulted in the removal of a further 1,163 responses.

2.10 Following the removal of responses that did not include full contact details, and those that were joke, blank and multiple responses, there were 26,219 records in the database from 26,219 respondents and these formed the basis for analysis (see Table 2.3). Throughout the remainder of this report, the term 'responses' will be used to refer only to those responses that were included in the analysis.

Table 2.3: Number of responses included in the analysis

Number of respondents Number of responses
Received 29,056 30,219
Responses with incomplete contact details - 2,828 - 2,828
Joke / blank responses - 9 - 9
Multiple responses from a single respondent - 0 - 1,163
Total 26,219 26,219

2.11 Although, overall, there were 26,219 responses included in the analysis, the number of responses to each question varied, as shown in Table 2.4. Questions 1, 2 and 7 received the highest number of responses.

Table 2.4: Number of responses to each question

Question number Number of responses*
Question 1: What are your views on the referendum question and the design of the ballot paper? 25,533
Question 2: What are your views on the proposed timetable and voting arrangements? 25,263
Question 3: What are your views on the inclusion of a second question in the referendum and the voting system that could be used? 21,712
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? 18,840
Question 5: What are your views on the proposed division of roles between the Electoral Management Board and the Electoral Commission? 18,481
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? 20,227
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? 25,019
Question 8: What are your views on the proposed spending limits? 18,217
Question 9: Do you have any other comments about the proposals in the draft Referendum (Scotland) Bill? 15,488

* It should be noted that not all of the comments made at each question were of relevance to the question being posed - some related to other questions in the consultation document, or other issues not covered by any of the questions in the consultation document. This will be discussed further in the chapters on each of the individual questions (chapters 4-11).

Type of response

2.12 The majority of the 26,219 responses included in the analysis were from individuals (21,198 or 81%). There were also 164 responses from organisations or groups,[6] 4,000 standard campaign responses and 857 non-standard campaign responses (see Table 2.5).

Table 2.5: Type of response

Number of responses %
Individual response* 21,198 81%
Organisational / group response 164 1%
Standard campaign response** 4,000 15%
Non-standard campaign response 857 3%
Total 26,219 100%

* Includes 188 personal responses received via the campaigns - see below.
** Includes two responses submitted by organisations.

2.13 All responses received through the three campaigns were categorised as follows:

  • Standard campaign: the response contained the exact campaign text with no modifications
  • Non-standard campaign: the response contained one or more relatively minor modifications of the standard campaign text, but overall was sympathetic to the campaign through which it was submitted. This includes responses which incorporated the standard campaign statements, but also included comments on other questions or issues.
  • Personal responses: these include lengthy responses which may (or may not) have incorporated the original campaign text. These also include responses from individuals who were clearly not sympathetic to the campaign through which they were submitted.

2.14 Table 2.6 shows the number of responses received through each campaign, and the numbers in each of the three categories described above.

Table 2.6: Number of standard campaign, non-standard campaign and personal responses received through the three campaigns

Scottish Labour SNP Lanark-shire Total
Standard campaign 615 3,300 85 4,000
Non-standard campaign 139 718 0 857
Personal responses 104 84 0 188
Total 858 4,102 85 5,045

2.15 In the remainder of this report, a distinction is made between individual responses; organisational / group responses; standard campaign responses; and non-standard campaign responses. The 188 personal responses received through the campaigns are included within the 'individual response' category.

Description of respondents

2.16 Respondents who submitted their responses directly to the Scottish Government were asked to complete a Respondent Information Form with their response.[7] This collected information on:

  • Country of residence (Scotland, rest of the UK or rest of the World)
  • For organisational respondents, the type of organisation (commercial, voluntary, electoral, political party, etc.)
  • For individual respondents, whether they were an academic or an elected representative (e.g. Councillor, MSP, MP, MEP).

2.17 More than three-quarters of those taking part in the consultation (just over 20,000 respondents) stated that they were resident in Scotland, while fewer than 5% said they lived elsewhere (see Table 2.7). Note, however, that there was no information about the country of residence for 4,950 respondents (19%), including all of those who submitted responses through the Scottish Labour and SNP websites.

Table 2.7: Respondent country of residence

Number of respondents %
Scotland 20,109 77%
Rest of the UK 779 3%
Rest of the World 381 1%
Not known 4,950 19%
Total 26,219 100%

2.18 Table 2.8 shows the number of respondents who identified themselves as academics or elected representatives. Responses were submitted by 951 academics, and 274 elected representatives.

Table 2.8: Academics and elected representatives

Number of respondents
Academics 951
Elected representatives, of which… 274
Councillor 191
Member of Scottish Parliament (MSP) 51
Member of UK Parliament (MP) 24
Councillor, Academic 5
Member of the European Parliament (MEP) 3
Total 1,225

2.19 As mentioned above, there were 164 responses submitted by organisations or groups. Nearly one third of these were from commercial organisations and a fifth were from voluntary organisations (see Table 2.9). Political parties and electoral organisations also took part in the consultation, and about a quarter of responses came from other types of organisations or groups, including (among others) a local authority, trade unions, community groups, learned societies, religious organisations, social enterprises and a book group.

Table 2.9: Organisation / group type

Number of respondents %
Commercial organisation 49 30%
Voluntary organisation 32 20%
Political party 15 9%
Electoral organisation 7 4%
Other 45 27%
Not known 16 10%
Total 164 100%


Email: Alison Stout

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