“Should Scotland be an independent country?”
That is what voters in Scotland will be asked in 2014 when they are given the opportunity to vote in the referendum on Scottish independence.
After testing the original question put forward by the Scottish Government “Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country”, the Electorial Commission found that people saw the use of ‘Do you agree’ as encouraging voters to consider a ‘Yes’ vote more favourably than a ‘No’.
As a result they recommended the wording should be changed and “Do you agree” omitted from the ballot paper question.
Last week the Scottish Government accepted the change and South of Scotland List MSP Paul Wheelhouse (SNP) welcomed both the clarification of the question and also the campaign spending limits.
“This is a hugely significant step in the referendum process and I am pleased that the Scottish Government has readily accepted the Electoral Commission’s recommendations in full,” said Mr Wheelhouse.
“I look forward to the Referendum Bill being brought before Parliament in due course and while I believe the original question was straightforward I appreciate that the recommended question ‘Should Scotland be an independent country’? Yes/No’ is clear and concise - leaving the result in no doubt as to how people in Scotland feel.
“One further issue that the Electoral Commission has called for clarity on is what a no vote would mean for Scotland. The recommendation that the Scottish and UK Governments work together to provide such clarity is a reasonable one.”
Borders MP and Secretary of State for Scotland, Michael Moore said: “I welcome the Electoral Commission’s report which provides essential oversight and advice on how the neutrality of the referendum process can be achieved.
“On the question, the Commission have said that it must be neutral and balanced and they concluded that the ‘do you agree’ formulation of the question proposed by the Scottish Government was ‘leading’. Instead the Commission have suggested ‘Should Scotland be an independent country? Yes/No’ and I would agree that this is the fairest and most neutral option.
“I am glad that the Scottish Government has accepted the Commission’s recommendation on the question. This means we have secured our aim of achieving not only a decisive and legal referendum but also a fair one.
“I now look forward to getting on with the real debate surrounding Scotland’s future and I will certainly by campaigning for us to remain in the UK because I believe we are stronger, safer and better together.”