Do you agree that Salmond’s referendum question is biased? “YES!” say the Electoral Commission

The Electoral Commission says the SNP’s proposed wording for the referendum on Scottish independence is not fair, reports Ed Jacobs.

The Electoral Commission has concluded that the SNP’s proposed wording for the referendum on Scottish independence is not fair since it has the potential to lead voters to giving a “Yes” vote.

The Commission, who Alex Salmond had initially been reluctant to accept should look at the question, was eventually asked to test the Scottish government’s proposed question of

“Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country? Yes/No”

Whilst the report out today recognises the question is clear, it nevertheless concludes:

“Based on our research and taking into account what we heard from people and organisations who submitted their views on the question, we consider that the proposed question is not neutral because the phrase ‘Do you agree…?’ could lead people towards voting ‘yes’.”

The Commission goes on to recommend  the question put to the Scottish people be:

“Should Scotland be an independent country? Yes/No”

John McCormick, Electoral Commissioner for Scotland, said:

“We have rigorously tested the proposed question, speaking to a wide range of people across Scotland. Any referendum question must be, and be seen to be, neutral. People told us that they felt the words ‘Do you agree’ could lead voters towards voting ‘yes’.

“People had a clear understanding that ‘independent country’ meant being separate from the UK. But they did want factual information in advance about what will happen after the referendum. We’re asking the UK and Scottish government to provide that clarity and we’ll then make sure it gets to voters as part of our public awareness campaign.”

Whilst the SNP have agreed to the suggested new wording, the development is yet another humiliation for the nationalists who have faced a string of bad news over independence including  the European Union rejecting the idea of Scotland automatically joining the EU if it became independent and support for independence slumping.

And last week the publication of the provisional GDP statistics showed the folly of the nationalists basing Scotland’s economic future on North Sea Oil.

In its commentary on the figures, the Office for National Statistics noted:

Oil and gas extraction were significantly reduced in quarter four 2012 due to extended and later than usual maintenance at the largest North Sea oil field. Excluding oil and gas extraction, GDP falls by only 0.1% compared with the actual fall of 0.3%.”

As the Better Together Campaign declared the announcement to be a “victory for the campaign for a fair referendum”, the campaign’s chair, Alistair Darling, concluded:

“I am pleased that the impartial Electoral Commission has rejected the fixed referendum question which Alex Salmond demanded. They have also rejected the nationalist’s attempts to silence their opponents by setting spending limits that would have given them an unfair advantage. The commission’s experts have also said that nationalist attempts to gag business, unions and civil society are wrong.

“I think that once the referee has blown the whistle the players should obey the decision. That is why we said months ago that we would accept the Commission’s recommendations in their entirety.

“Over the past few months, we have called on the nationalists to follow our lead and agree to having the Electoral Commission set the rules. It looks like we have won that argument. Alex Salmond has had to concede that he cannot be both the referee and player in this particular game. This is thanks to the thousands of people who joined our campaign for fair referendum rules.

Now that the rules have been agreed we can get on with the debate. It is a debate that we intend to win.

“We are Better Together with our friends, families and workmates from across the UK. It is a message that, I’m sure, the majority of Scots can agree with.”

See also:

Experts slap down Salmond’s plan for a two-question Scottish independence referendumAugust 23rd, 2012

MPs accuse SNP of “biased” independence questionMay 8th, 2012

Salmond’s Scottish referendum is a textbook example of a leading questionJanuary 27th, 2012

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41 Responses to “Do you agree that Salmond’s referendum question is biased? “YES!” say the Electoral Commission”

  1. Thomas Coles

    How is this a humiliation?

  2. ACA The Underground

    The difference between the two is pretty pathetic, they are almost the same and both lend themselves to a ‘Yes’ vote.
    All countries and all people should be independent, what kind of horrible person would say anything to the contrary?

  3. Better Independent

    This website considers the change from “Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country? Yes/No” to “Should Scotland be an independent country? Yes/No” more important than:

    1) The opportunity to remove Trident Nuclear missiles from the UK State.
    2) Create a new and equal relationship between Scotland & England.
    3) Decentralising power from the South-East towards the regions & Nations.
    4) Protect free education, prescriptions fees & care for the elderly in Scotland.
    5) Build towards more social-democratic/socialist policies in Scotland as a ‘progressive beacon’ for the UK.
    6) Strike a blow to imperialist/British nationalist forces within the UK. (BNP/UKIP/EDL)
    7) Build a fair constitutional settlement including a written constitution.

    Please publish one article to consider these ideas. It may be easier to write these petty attack pieces which conflate the SNP with Independence, however those with common sense & integrity see straight through them.

    The English left needs to wake up to the opportunities of Independence.

  4. Peter Jameson

    Voters who want Scotland to leave the UK will vote accordingly. Voters who want Scotland to stay in the UK will vote accordingly. To anybody who can read plain English, there shouldn’t be a problem distinguishing between the options.

  5. Peter A Bell

    I recall the Edinburgh Agreement also being trumpeted as a “defeat” and a “humiliation” for the SNP – despite the fact that the agreement gave them everything that they wanted. At the time, I pictured Alex Salmond sitting with a huge grin on his face saying to himself, “If this is defeat then I can’t wait for the next great unionist victory!”.

    I suspect he’s doing much the same today.

  6. Ed

    We have put take Trident for example, the former Secretary General of NATO questions if you can be a member whilst also being a member. Also, why the arrogance in thinking the SNP will naturally be the Government in an independent Scotland. Also, what about North Sea Oil? Is it really a secure base upon which to base an economy?

  7. Thomas Coles

    Why would the SNP ‘naturally’ be the Government?

    It is a broad centre-left coallition based around Independence. Surely when Independence is gained it will cease to exist in its current form?

  8. Newsbot9

    I for one consider fairness in important questions of constitutional matters far more important than party political bias or ordinary legislation.

    And you mean you WANT a disgruntled neighbour? What?

    …No, just additional costs to move them, nonsense, the opposite will happen, not tied to Scotland, given the blank cheque you cannot say that, the opposite will happen, the constitution is written, just not codified.

  9. Newsbot9

    The United Kingdom is indeed one country, so…

    And no, they’re really NOT the same in terms of cognative bias.

  10. Newsbot9

    Complete nonsense. The psychology of writing questions is quite well understood, and the bias inherent in the SNP’s favoured question is downright blatant!

  11. Erin Van Der Maas

    Again this is rubbish…can you not manage any balance at all when writing about the proposed referendum for Scottish independence? Whilst I understand that you clearly do not want a separate Scotland peddling half truths and polemics based on misrepresentations will not serve your cause well. The reason oil revenues were down in the fourth quarter last year was down to temporary maintenance on oil fields…presumably once maintenance is complete production will rise again? And again you claim the EU has made a judgement on an independent Scotland membership of the EU whereas the commission has resolutely refused to comment as yet and again nothing here about if the rump of the UK will have to reapply for EU membership. Poor journalism all round

  12. Better Independent

    Interest that you cannot refer to George Robertson (a notoriously right-wing Labour member & Iraq War enthusiast by name).

    Nor it seems can you explain his position: “questions if you can be a member whilst also be a memeber”? What?

    Perhaps you mean ‘questions whether you can be in NATO & disarm Trident’.

    I would rather not be in NATO. However 25 out of 28 NATO members are not nuclear states, so even if Scotland does end up in NATO it can strike a victory for disarmament. Even Scottish Labour members support disarmament. (& the churches & the unions)

    At no point in my comment did I demonstrate ‘arrogance’ that the SNP would be in government. I said the opposite. I criticised those who “conflate the SNP with Independence”, which you have just done again.

    Why do I believe that Scotland would continue to vote to the left of rUK? Experience.

    Do I think a written constitution is better that one with an unelected chamber, disproportionate voting system, civil liberties abuse, royal prerogative, wars without debate and institutional conservatism?

    Yes.

    It’s time for the English-left to seize the opportunity of Independence & reject the unthinking approach of UK Labour.

  13. Better Independent

    Interesting that you cannot refer to Lord George Robertson (a notoriously right-wing Labour member & Iraq War enthusiast) by name.

    Nor it seems can you explain his position: “questions if you can be a member whilst also being a memeber”? What? Does the Lord question tautologies?: ‘If 1 million die can 1 million be dead?’

    Perhaps you mean ‘questions whether you can be in NATO & disarm Trident’.

    I would rather not be in NATO. However 25 out of 28 NATO members are not nuclear states, so even if Scotland does end up in NATO it can strike a victory for disarmament. Even Scottish Labour members support disarmament. (& the churches & the unions)

    At no point in my comment did I demonstrate ‘arrogance’ that the SNP would be in government. I said the opposite. I criticised those who “conflate the SNP with Independence”, which you have done again.

    Why do I believe that Scotland would continue to vote to the left of rUK?

    Experience and evidence.

    Do I think a written constitution is better that one with an unelected chamber, disproportionate voting system, civil liberties abuse, royal prerogative, wars without debate and institutional conservatism?

    Yes.

    It’s time for the English-left to seize the opportunity of Independence & reject the unthinking approach of UK Labour demonstrated in this article.

  14. Brian

    Translation – we (with “Ed Jacobs”) still can’t think of any positive reasons why Scotland should remain part of the UK, so here’s some more negative propaganda instead.

    It’s still not working, neo-liberal Labour puppets…..

  15. GinWales

    Is this supposed to be balanced or objective? you take Darling and the Electoral Commission as gospel. I suggest you read http://www.newsnetscotland.com/index.php/scottish-opinion/6654-the-entirely-independent-and-completely-impartial-united-kingdom-electoral-commission

  16. uglyfatbloke

    Newsbot is quite right, the question is important and it is a good that the gnats have gone along with the proposed change, now if both sides can stop screeching rubbish we might all get to be little better informed, but we probably should n’t hold our breath.

  17. uglyfatbloke

    Quick question,,is this an evidence-based leftist blog or a ‘Labour is Lovely’ blog?

  18. Wayne Brown

    The new question is virtually the same as the old question and includes the same double interpretation of ‘should be’ i.e should remain, or should become. The ‘unbiased electoral commission’ missed out here. If they had used ‘become’ in stead of ‘be’ then the Scottish Government would probably have rejected that ‘advice’ – then LLF could have fulminated in incandescent fury with ‘undemocratic’ and ‘dictatorship’ being the order of the day. Such a pity you had to restrict yourselves to ‘humiliated’. Life is full of disappointments.

  19. Tom Parks

    The ‘United’ Kingdom is a state consisting of multiple countries, just like the former USSR or Yugoslavia. It is a purely political (i.e. phoney) construct.

  20. Newsbot9

    Complete nonsense

  21. Paddy Daley

    English Mayoral Elections 2012 “How would you like…”

    Welsh referendum 2011 “Do you want…”

    Scottish referendum 1997 “Do you agree…”

  22. Derick Tulloch

    Have I accidentally stumbled into the Daily Mail website?

    Well, blow me down with Victorian Values one, two three – Land of (stop laughing at the back) Hope (we’ll need it if we stick with Titanic UK as she goes down) Glory!

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