Calls for independent verification of UK Government referendum consultation


By a Newsnet reporter
The row over the legitimacy of the Scottish Government’s referendum consultation has fuelled calls for the Westminster controlled consultation to be subjected to the same level of scrutiny.
Yesterday the SNP reacted angrily to Labour party claims that the Scottish Government had deliberately designed their online consultation to be abused. 

The accusation came from Labour MP Anas Sarwar who insisted that people were allowed to make multiple submissions, many anonymously.

The nationalists hit back by pointing out that the process used was one endorsed by Labour themselves on previous consultations, including the Calman Commission which was set up by the three Unionist parties to look at devolution.

SNP MP Stewart Hosie yesterday confirmed that the Scottish Government will allow independent verification of their submissions.

However Mr Hosie has demanded that the UK Government’s consultation face the same rigorous checks.

Commenting Mr Hosie said:

“The anti-independence parties attacks have already boomeranged with Labour attacking a process they used themselves and which was used for their Calman Commission.

“Now the onus is on the UK government’s consultation to prove that it will be independently verified.  [Sunday’s] statement by Michael Moore does not suggest so.”

Mr Hosie also revealed worrying rumours regarding the origin of half the responses to the UK consultation and added:

“Since the UK government’s consultation is small it is vulnerable.  Rumours are already circulating at Westminster that nearly half the responses came from a pro forma on the Labour party’s website. Responses that Labour’s deputy leader says they are ‘monitoring’.

“What does that say about the independent verification of the UK government’s consultation?

“Unlike this piecemeal approach the Scottish Government’s consultation will be independently assessed.  Will the Scottish Secretary now put his consultation up for the same analysis?”

The Scottish Government’s consultation paper – Your Scotland Your Referendum – seeks views on:

  • what the ballot paper should say
  • what spending limits should be set
  • how the referendum should be managed and regulated

The consultation will close on May 11, 2012.