Following evidence given by John McCormick, Electoral Commissioner for Scotland, at the Referendum Bill Committee today (Thursday), the SNP is making a fresh call for the UK government to engage in pre-referendum talks.
Mr McCormick said:
“We do believe that clarity about how the terms of independence will be decided would help voters understand how the competing claims of the campaigns will be resolved… the more information the governments can agree on, the better we feel it would be for the voter”.
Mr McCormick’s call for clarity is backed-up by a YouGov poll earlier in May that shows that shows over two-thirds of people in Scotland support talks between the UK government and Scottish Government before the independence referendum to help pave the way for negotiations should there be a Yes vote – which would assist in informing the referendum debate between now and next September.
Welcoming the comments, Linda Fabiani MSP, a member of the Referendum Bill Committee said:
“Mr McCormick’s evidence at the Referendum Bill Committee today is very sensible and reflects Scottish public opinion. It indicates that the reasonable and constructive approach the Scottish Government are taking in the referendum debate is in tune with the vast majority of people in Scotland. By contrast, Westminster’s refusal to enter into pre-referendum discussions to help inform the debate is out of touch with the people.
“For months, Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish Government have been calling for the UK government to enter discussions to allow the voters to be better informed, but so far Westminster has refused – preferring instead to indulge in scaremongering about Scotland.
“Having discussions now to develop an understanding of the issues that would require negotiation after a Yes vote, what factual information would underpin that, and what attitude each government would take to negotiations in the event of a Yes vote, is not to pre-empt the referendum result – it is simply to ensure that if there is a Yes vote we can get to work quickly on implementing the democratic decision of the people of Scotland.
“The entire Westminster machine is focused on the referendum – producing a whole series of scare stories for the No campaign – and the people of Scotland clearly want some of that effort directed to constructive engagement with the government of Scotland.
“The UK government should heed public opinion in Scotland, and U-turn on their current intransigent position. Pre-referendum discussions would help ensure that the debate is as informed as possible, and that is surely in the interests of people in Scotland and indeed the rest of the UK.”
Nicola Sturgeon has asked written to UK Gov to ask for talks.
Electoral Commission’s original recommendations.
John McCormick, Electoral Commissioner for Scotland, at the Referendum Bill Committee 23/05/13, said:
“…We do believe that clarity about how the terms of independence will be decided would help voters understand how the competing claims of the campaigns will be resolved. This does seem to be possible and both governments have committed to work together to agree it. The information should clarify, for us we would like to see it clarify, the process that would follow the referendum for a yes outcome or a no outcome and might, for example, include how negotiations would take place between both governments, the timescales for doing so etcetera. And, the more information the governments can agree on, the better we feel it would be for the voter, but we’re in active discussions with the governments about this at the moment.”
“We’re very clear about that in our impartial role about process and distinct from the campaigning arguments, but we’re also very clear in our report that those who were tested by the researchers and those…there was a clear demand from other people for authoritative information about the campaign arguments but we accept that that’s not our role and that won’t happen beforehand and we know what the voters expect that to be clarified by either side during the campaign itself. But, there’s a clear demand for that but we accept in our discussions with the governments that what they will agree on is not on the negotiations stance of pre-negotiations or anything like that but what will happen after the referendum and there is a demand for that as well, about the process, the timeframe, that kind of thing.”
The poll details are as follows:
“A referendum on an independent Scotland is taking place on 18 September 2014. In the event of a Yes vote, a number of areas would need to be negotiated between the Scottish and UK governments before Scotland became an independent country in 2016 – including issues such as currency, financial regulation, and the share of assets and liabilities that would accrue to Scotland and the rest of the UK.
“Do you think that the UK and Scottish governments should or should not hold talks before the referendum, to help pave the way for formal negotiations should there be a Yes vote?”
The Scottish and UK Governments should hold talks before the referendum: 67%
The Scottish and UK Governments should not hold talks before the referendum: 21%
Don’t know: 11%
The poll was conducted by YouGov among a sample of 1,006 adults in Scotland between 1-3 May.