Should you wish to respond to the Scottish government’s consultation Your Scotland, Your Referendum, then today (11th May) is the last day.
Here’s my answers to the Scottish government in italics.
What are your views on the referendum question and the design of the ballot paper?
The ballot paper just asks the question “Do you agree that Scotland should become an independent country” Y / N.
This is a biased way of framing the question – and I agree there should be only one.
“Should Scotland become an independent country and cease to be part of the United Kingdom”
There should be a reference in the question, however phrased, that answering “Yes” means leaving the UK.
What are your views on the proposed timetable and voting arrangements?
The SNP said prior to the 2011 election that they would hold a referendum in the second half of the fourth parliamentary term. They won, so they have the mandate to do that. Autumn 2014 fits that mandate – I don’t see how anyone can reasonably have a problem with that.
Publishing the White Paper in November 2013 gives nearly a year for us all to argue this through at length with full details of what we’re arguing about. It’s going to be long, dreary, exhausting, infuriating and necessary to have that year.
I also agree that the referendum should be decided on the majority of those who vote. Anyone who opts not to vote has agreed to “not care”.
I see no reason to otherwise change the voting arrangements as for any other referendum.
What are your views on the inclusion of a second question in the referendum and the voting system that could be used?
The only “second question” I could agree to would be to phrase this as a double question (“to be sure, to be sure”)
“Do you agree that Scotland should become an independent country?”
“Do you agree that Scotland should no longer be part of the United Kingdom?”
and requiring a majority Yes vote to both questions.
I disagree with presenting a “devo max” idea: that is an option that would require years of consultation and consideration, it is not a simple “if we can’t have independence, let’s have this” idea. “Devo max”, however it happened, would have to be worked on for at least as long and as carefully as the original idea for a Scottish Parliament. And it would have to be legislated at Westminster. And other countries in the UK might have ideas about what they wanted.
If independence fails, it’s open to supporters of “devo max” to begin that process, beginning by clarifying exactly what they mean by devo max in a full consultation process.
[Update, Sunday: The Scotsman complains that the debate has "gone no further". Dear me. This is a big issue. It's right that it should be exhaustively discussed before final decisions are made.]
What are your views on the proposal to give the Electoral Management Board and its Convener responsibility for the operational management of the referendum? What are your views on the proposed division of roles between the Electoral Management Board and the Electoral Commission?
The Electoral Commission should run the referendum, not a new Board.
(I didn’t bother going into more detail since we already know the Electoral Commission will be running the referendum. But I have a problem with setting up a brand new Board for a one-off referendum. Not the right way to do things.)
What are your views on the idea that the referendum could be held on a Saturday or on other ways that would facilitate voting?
I’m generally in favour of making it as easy as possible for as many people as possible to vote. If it’s found that holding the referendum on a Saturday will do so, let’s have it then.
What are your views on extending the franchise to those aged 16 and 17 years who are eligible to be registered on the electoral register?
Disagree. Changing the franchise to include people of 16-17 years who register to vote, is a proposal that merits consideration, but it should be considered as a separate question, not as part of any special referendum.
What are your views on the proposed spending limits?
Looks sensible and reasonable enough. Agree.