09 Nov 2012
Following a request from the Scottish Government, the Electoral Commission – the independent elections and referendums watchdog – has begun to assess the intelligibility of the proposed Scottish referendum question.
The question the Commission have been asked to assess is:
"Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?"
John McCormick, Electoral Commissioner for Scotland, said:“We will assess the referendum question to see whether voters find it clear, simple and neutral. If it isn’t, we’ll say what needs to be done."
“As part of our assessment process, we will talk to voters across Scotland to see whether they can easily understand and answer the question on the ballot paper. We’ll also ask for advice from accessibility and plain language specialists; and we’ll ask prospective campaigners, politicians, academics and other interested people for their views on the question. Throughout the process, our focus will always be what’s in the voters’ interests.”
The question assessment process takes up to 12 weeks and the Commission will publish its findings including any recommendations for changes. The Commission will provide this report directly to the Scottish Parliament in time to inform their consideration of the referendum legislation and will make the findings public at the same time. The final decision on the question will be for the Scottish Parliament to make.
The Commission has established referendum question guidelines that it uses to assess how intelligible a question is. These include looking at whether the question:
- is easy to understand and to the point.
- is unambiguous.
- avoids encouraging voters to consider one response more favourably than another or misleading voters.
The Commission has today published an update briefing on the Scottish referendum which is available at: http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/151683/Update-briefing-on-Scottish-referendum.pdf
For further information contact:
The Electoral Commission, Sarah Mackie: 0131 225 0211
Out of office hours: 07789 920 414
Notes to editor
1. The Scottish Government has made the request under Section 10 of the Political Parties Elections and Referendums Act 2000 which allows the Commission to provide advice and assistance to the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government.
2. The Commission has established guidelines on referendum questions which are available at: http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/82626/Referendum-Question-guidelines-final.pdf
3. Further details of the Commission’s approach to assessing questions is available at: http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/82625/Referendum-Question-statement-final.pdf
4. The process of assessing the question for the Scottish referendum mirrors the procedure in place for referendums held under the rules of the Political Parties Elections and Referendums Act 2000, where the Commission has an automatic duty to report its views on the question to Parliament.
5. The Commission has appointed Ipsos MORI Scotland to carry out research with voters to inform the Commission’s assessment of the question