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Response to referendum consultation

11/05/2012

With now over 21,000 responses, this is the third highest consultation in the history of devolution – behind only the same-sex marriage and smoking in public places consultations, and over seven-times the level of response to the UK Government’s consultation.

The response rate clearly shows that the Scottish Parliament is the right place to decide the terms of the autumn 2014 independence referendum, Cabinet Secretary for Government Strategy Bruce Crawford said today.

Mr Crawford also announced that as well as the Electoral Commission having responsibility for regulating the referendum – as set out in the consultation document – the Scottish Government also propose that the Commission will test the ballot paper.  This will be done  in autumn/winter 2012, as provided for in the referendum timetable detailed on page 14 of the consultation document.

The Electoral Commission will be responsible to the Scottish Parliament for the role that it will play in the referendum.

This means that Scotland’s referendum will exactly reflect the terms of the Westminster legislation governing all other referendums in the UK.  The  Government propose the question or questions, the Electoral Commission advise on the question or questions, and Parliament decides.  In this case it will, of course, be for the Scottish Parliament to decide.  Both the current and previous UK governments endorsed this division of responsibilities.

Thanking all those who have taken the time to make their views known, Mr Crawford said:

“We have had a fantastic response from the people of Scotland, with over 21,000 contributions to the consultation – over seven times the number that responded to the UK Government’s consultation on the same issue.

“This positive response also sends a clear signal that the people of Scotland believe the Scottish Parliament is the place to decide the terms and timing of the referendum – and that these should not be imposed by Westminster.  I want to thank everyone who has taken the time to make their views known.”

Announcing the Electoral Commission’s role, Mr Crawford said:

“The Electoral Commission has expertise in regulating referendums and elections – including successfully overseeing, for the first time, the recent local government elections in Scotland – and we have already announced that it will regulate and monitor the autumn 2014 independence referendum.

“As part of its role, the Commission will also be asked to conduct the testing of the ballot paper.  It will then be for the Scottish Parliament to decide the final question or questions – precisely in line with the arrangements for other referendums in the UK.

Setting out the way forward over the summer, Mr Crawford concluded:

“The Scottish Government’s referendum consultation has gathered huge levels of public interest as we debate and discuss Scotland’s future.  The robustness of the process is demonstrated by the fact that the consultation will now be subject to independent analysis – which stands in stark contrast to the much smaller UK Government consultation, which was not put to independent analysis.  The full analysis will be completed and published by the end of the summer.”

The consultation closes at midnight tonight (Friday 11 May) and as of midday there were over 21,000 valid responses.

Your Scotland, Your Referendum proposed that a chief counting officer and local returning officers should be responsible for running the referendum and that the Electoral Commission should be responsible for guidance, regulation and monitoring the referendum (paragraph 2.7) http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2012/01/1006/4

The timetable which will allow full parliamentary and public consideration is below.

Public consultation on draft referendum - 25 January 2012

Local Govt elections -3 May 2012

Close consultation - 11 May 2012

Analysis of responses - Summer 2012

Practical preparations, ballot paper testing - Autumn/Winter 2012

Scottish Govt Legislative Programme - Autumn 2012

Finalisation of Referendum Bill & implementation plan - Autumn/Winter 2012

Intro of Referendum Bill - Early 2013

Parliamentary consideration of Bill Stages 1 & 2 - Early to Mid 2013

Summer recess - July to August 2013

Referendum Bill passed after stage 3 - October 2013

Royal Assent to Referendum Bill - November 2013

Publication of white paper - November 2013

European elections - June 2014

Commonwealth games - July 2014

Start of regulation period - Summer 2014


Pre-referendum period (no govt publications etc) - 28 days before referendum; Referendum - Autumn 2014