Royal Society back referendum timetable and call for independence alternative to be ‘clearly articulated’


By G.A.Ponsonby
The Royal Society of Edinburgh has indicated its support for the Scottish Government’s timetable for holding Scotland’s independence referendum.
In a response to the Scottish Government’s consultation on the referendum the society said that the period of Autumn 2014 was “persuasive”.

In its submission, the Society also said it would be inappropriate to rule out a third option on the ballot paper until the alternative to independence had been clearly defined.

The Royal Society said: “It is essential that voters have all the information they need to enable them to make an informed choice in the referendum.

“It is of critical importance that the full implications of the alternatives are clearly articulated before the referendum takes place.

“These considerations indicate that the argument for holding the referendum in the second half of the current session of the Scottish Parliament, to allow sufficient time for reflection, information and debate, is persuasive.”

The endorsement of the referendum date and the comments on the third option were welcomed by SNP MSP Linda Fabiani who called the Society’s views interesting:
Commenting, Ms Fabiani said:
“This is an interesting and welcome contribution to the debate which recognises the merits of the referendums timings in the second half of this parliament.
“A referendum in Scotland is clearly a matter for the Scottish Parliament and Government – and the referendum that is happening is the one the SNP pledged in the election campaign, which we said will be held in the second half of this parliament. 
“We are in the process of a consultation on the independence referendum and once that is completed we will take forward our plans for a referendum in autumn 2014.
“That is the platform the SNP stood on last May, and which the people of Scotland gave us a resounding mandate to deliver.”
The Society urged both Edinburgh and London to reach agreement that would allow the so called Section-30 order to be introduced, thus making any result legally binding.

They also called for the Electoral Commission to submit advice to the Scottish Government on the proposed questions on the ballot and for that advice to be made public.

In the detailed submission the Society also argued that any decision on 16 and 17 year olds being allowed to vote should be made not just for the referendum but on its own “general and distinct merits”.

The submission from the RSE came on the same day that former First Minister Jack McConnell became the latest Unionist politician to claim that uncertainty was harming the Scottish economy.

In the latest intervention the former Labour MSP claimed that both Governments needed to compromise on the referendum process.

However despite arguing for compromise, Mr McConnell when pressed, ruled out all of the SNP’s proposals.

The former Labour First Minister ruled out any possibility of a third option appearing on the ballot paper, refused to back 16 and 17 year olds being allowed to vote and also insisted that the referendum should be held within 18 months.

Mr McConnell also claimed that the SNP’s proposed ballot question should be replaced with two separate questions asking whether people wanted independence or whether they wished to be part of the UK.

[Some readers will be aware that following the Newsnet Scotland article on the misleading BBC ‘Bank Bailout’ article published  after an interview with Nicola Sturgeon, the corporation corrected the headline wording, together with text in their article.

Newsnet Scotland has contacted BBC Scotland’s Online Editor Tom Connor asking for an explanation as to why this correction took two days, why there was no public acknowledgment or apology and who sanctioned publication of the original piece.  We have also contacted BBC Scotland Head of News and Current Affairs John Boothman, together with Political Editor Brian Taylor.

We intend to publish an article on this episode shortly, but will allow BBC Scotland time to reply to four questions we have submitted to them on this matter.]