Conservative scaremongering over electoral register dismissed as “nonsense”

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By a Newsnet reporter

The Scottish Government has dismissed as “nonsense” claims by the Scottish Conservatives that the Scottish Parliament would be unable to access the full electoral roll for the independence referendum.

According to Scotland’s sole Tory PM, David Mundell, the Scottish Government would be forced to rely upon the publicly available electoral register, which is mainly used by marketing companies.

By a Newsnet reporter

The Scottish Government has dismissed as “nonsense” claims by the Scottish Conservatives that the Scottish Parliament would be unable to access the full electoral roll for the independence referendum.

According to Scotland’s sole Tory PM, David Mundell, the Scottish Government would be forced to rely upon the publicly available electoral register, which is mainly used by marketing companies.

Voters can opt out of being included in the public register, and according to Mr Mundell this would lead to one million Scots would be denied a vote.  However Mr Mundell’s claim was immediately dismissed by a spokesperson for the Scottish government as “nonsense”.

The Conservatives maintain that if the Scottish government refuses to accede to Westminster demands to set the timing, question and terms of the referendum, and goes ahead with the referendum on the terms it promised to the Scottish electorate, the election would be illegal.  Mr Mundell believes that this means that the Scottish government would be barred from using the full electoral register.

According to a statement from the Conservatives, based on figures from the General Register Office for Scotland, almost 27% of the 3.9 million voters on the electoral register have opted out of the publicly available version.

Mr Mundell said: “The UK government has set out very clearly that the Scottish government cannot legislate lawfully for a referendum with its current powers.

“The full electoral register can only be used for specific purposes such as the general or Holyrood elections.

“The legal position is clear – if the SNP attempts to go ahead with its own referendum then it will be nothing more than an opinion poll, with a million Scots unable to be asked for their view.”

However a spokesperson for the Scottish government rejected Mr Mundell’s and noted that the referendum would be carried out after the appropriate legislation was passed at Holyrood, ensuring full access to the register.

The spokesperson added:  “The Scottish government is entirely confident of its position, and of the overwhelming mandate it has received from the people of Scotland to hold a referendum.  In any event, the claim that the full electoral register will not be used for the referendum is simply nonsense.”  

Responding to the Conservative statement, SNP Chief Whip Stewart Hosie MP said:

“The Westminster parties are blundering from one PR disaster to another with their cack-handed attempts to interfere with Scotland’s referendum.  The First Minister has made very clear that we will launch a consultation on the referendum later this month and the anti-independence parties should wait for that consultation.

“Every step the anti-independence parties have taken since Cameron’s chaotic intervention on Monday has done nothing but boost support for independence and ensuring that the people of Scotland are able to see decisions taken about what’s best of Scotland in Scotland.”

Meanwhile First Minister Alex Salmond has dismissed threats from Tory Chancellor George Osborne who claimed that Scotland would be refused permission to use Sterling in the event of independence.  Speaking on the Politics Show Mr Salmond explained that the Bank of England was not owned by Mr Osborne and that Scotland, as joint partners in the insititution, had an unarguable right to use the pound if it so wished.

The programme also witnessed Lib Dem Secretary of State for Scotland, Michael Moore, appear to admit that a multi-option referendum had not been ruled out by the Tory/Lib Dem coalition.  Mr Moore, when pressed over his own consultation document that invites input on more than one question, answered that a single question was merely his “preferred” option.

The admission by Mr Moore now places the coalition alongside the Scottish Government who have also expressed a preference for one question – independence, yes or no – but have refused to rule out a third option appearing on the ballot paper.  This weekend saw several respected figures from Civic Scotland enter the debate by insisting a third option of devo-max should be on offer in 2014.

The SNP will publish their own consultation on January 25th and will invite input from all sections of Scottish society.

[Newsnet Scotland, in recognition that the referendum debate has begun in earnest, has added a new section to our main menu – the ‘Referendum’ section will contain articles and opinion pieces relevant to Scotland’s forthcoming historic ballot.  It will also, we hope, allow readers and visitors to catch up on stories and articles they may have previously missed.]