Leaders: Referendum changes may confuse voters
Just when we thought clarity was in sight for the independence referendum, another complication looms and with the capacity to create considerable confusion among voters.
The latest worry is over plans to introduce a UK-wide change in the system for voter registration. In itself, it is simple enough. The proposed changes involve a new voter registration process called Individual Electoral Registration replacing the current system of voter registration under which a form is sent to the head of the household for completion. This system has been found to be open to abuse and fraud.
Under the new proposals, each individual on the electoral register will be verified against a Department of Work and Pensions database. Those who match on this database will be confirmed as registered. It means the annual canvass to compile the new population, which usually starts in September and is completed by 1 December, will be delayed this year.
The problem arises on timing. Initial implementation is scheduled to take place between July and December next year, straddling the critical period in which Scotland’s independence campaign and referendum vote are to be held.
The preparations for the new system will involve a formidable amount of administrative work while the new register – which would not be used for the referendum ballot – could create considerable confusion.
As Brian Byrne, chair of the Electoral Registration Committee points out, two quite separate events would be happening at the same time – individual registration and the creation of a register for the referendum – and under two different sets of rules.
It would be difficult to introduce the changes sooner because of the European elections in June 2014, leaving a “very small window” to introduce the changes before that. He is therefore calling for the implementation of the individual registration change to be delayed until after the referendum. That might seem straightforward enough – except we do not yet know the date of the referendum and no date for the registration change can be fixed until this is known. The Scottish Government is to hold talks with the UK Cabinet Office in an effort to resolve the row.
For political aficionados, it would seem a simple enough matter for voters to distinguish between the two events. But as the 2007 voting for local and Holyrood elections vividly showed, even separate voting lists in the polling booths can lead to considerable confusion.
With so vital a matter as a referendum vote for independence, it is surely imperative that the approach to this vote is kept as uncluttered as possible and that the potential for voter misapprehension is kept to a minimum.
We now have clarity and agreement on the wording of the referendum question. The last thing we need is confusion as to who is able to vote and how they register to do so.
Life on Mars an attractive alternative
Weary of the dreich Scottish weather? Looking for a fresh start? Then a new life beckons on Mars. Bas Landorp, director general of the Dutch charity Mars One, is looking for recruits for a 2023 mission to the planet.
Preparation and training will take years. But what a challenge for Scottish Development International and all those training agencies.
It would be wrong to assume it will be a planetary paradise: Scots have the haunting legacy of Darien to remind us how hopeful expeditions to new worlds don’t necessarily pan out. Nevertheless, life on Mars offers the opportunity for a clean break. No more frost-gripped mornings, darkness in the early afternoons and plagues of midges. For Edinburgh residents Mars holds a special appeal: life beyond tramworks. No more dug-up roads at every corner and the hammering of pneumatic drills. Here is true paradise – just so long as the planetary councillors don’t embark on a Mars canal improvement scheme.
Arguably the biggest bonus will be daily life free of the wearisome drone of Indyref politics. No more daily ear batterings from MSPs, or interminable earnest lectures from Dr Morgan Morgen on Danish exceptionalism. Here’s the chance of a clean break from those relentless discussions led by Professor Mungo Jumbo on Bipolar Currency Systems.
Indeed there may be health dangers arising from withdrawal from the Scottish environment. Volunteers may experience violent spasms as “cold turkey” sets in. Developing Indyref Replacement Patches for Scots recruits and a Holyrood White Noise
system to stop the shakes may be Mr Landorp’s biggest Martian challenge.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 18 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 9 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North east