Matters for a free and fair referendum

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WHAT evidence is there that a London-based UK electoral body would be any more competent or independent than a Scottish Referendum Commission (Your report, 22 November)?

The past performance of Westminster’s Scotland Office in running elections for Holyrood is not exactly covered with glory.

To be completely fair, any such body – whether based here or in England – must ensure organisations and individuals outside Scotland are prevented from funding or giving material assistance to the No campaign or the Yes campaign for that matter.

Calum StewarT

Montague Street

Edinburgh

IN RESPONSE to The Scotsman article, “Former MSP warns rules must be followed” (22 November), I said referendums should be governed by five principles:

1 The poll should be well planned and professionally delivered;

2 There should be a comprehensive awareness campaign so voters know how to participate and understand what they are voting for;

3 There should be a clear process for the designation of the Yes and No campaigns, and clear rules for the campaigners;

4 There should be transparency in relation to campaign expenditure and funding;

5 There should be careful and independent assessment on the intelligibility of the referendum question, or questions.

These are principles developed by the Electoral Commission for any referendum and, I hope, can be agreed by all parties to the present discussions.

Who runs the referendum is a separate issue and I have made no comment on that. All I said is the Electoral Commission stands ready to assist, if asked.

George Reid

Coneyhill House

Bridge of Allan

BRIAN Wilson (Perspective, 22 November) has injected a lot of hot air into our constitutional debate. He bases his statement on the Claim of Right of 1989, which acknowledges the sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine the form of government best suited to their needs. If we apply this to a referendum then we must have a referendum that tests that determination.

Every effort in recent years to test it reveals three options: independence; a Scottish Parliament with fiscal autonomy; the status quo. Of these three the least popular now is the status quo.

If, however, we follow Mr Wilson’s advice and have a referendum that simply says independence or not then we will be forcing Scots nervous of full independence to vote for the status quo – the option furthest from what they think is best suited to their needs.

Equally, in a dynamic campaign where the SNP organisation will have the greatest impact, people may settle for an independence which they did not necessarily want because the status quo promoted by Tories and Labour is the last thing that they feel meets their needs.

Is it really beyond the genius of our leaders to choose a three-option referendum question that most closely tests the opinion of the Scottish people as to what meets their needs?

Having campaigned for 45 years for independence, I don’t want to see it slip through by default. I want the Scottish people to choose independence because they want it and want to make it work, and they know that nothing else will.

George Leslie

North Glassock

Fenwick

APPEALS for adequate information as to what Scots will face in the event of Scotland becoming independent, as evidenced in some letters to The Scotsman, raise the question: When is knowledge or information ever sufficient?

What is more than enough is the knowledge accumulated over 300-plus years about the situation created by the 1707 Union of Parliaments. Knowledge enough for Scots to now have elected a home governing party that operates on the expectation of Scotland being an independent state as it was before the 1707 arrangement.

It is also, let us remind ourselves, only within the past decade that to espouse independence has been a socially comfortable thing to do. Prior to the SNP’s recent electoral success, there was regular disparagement of the very idea. Mockery was the response to the very mention of it. There was indeed an impression of subversiveness about even entertaining a belief in independence.

Knowing one’s future is one thing, knowing one’s past another.

Ian Johnstone

Forman Drive Peterhead

PERHAPS Rev Archie Black (Letters, 22 November) should have read my contribution more closely.

He suggests that I “falsely claim” the status of Scotland and the remaining part of the United Kingdom in the event of the SNP managing to achieve the break up of the Union. I did no such thing. I gave the considered view of the European Commission, whose decision is the one that matters; namely that Scotland would have to apply to join the EU and that the remaining United Kingdom would not. He may not like it, but that is what I quoted.

Of course, I understand that the SNP (and its supporters) are desperate to try to pretend what they say will happen will happen and that a separate Scotland would be in the EU. If the truth were told, not least in a time of acute economic uncertainty, when “splittist” plans do not help Scotland in the slightest, the 28 per cent who currently think it would be a good idea to break up the UK would rapidly diminish.

Andrew HN Gray

Craiglea Drive

Edinburgh