With just weeks to go until Scotland’s historic independence referendum, new leaflets and information booklets are being made available to help voters north of the border make up their minds.
A new e-book has been launched today, featuring contributions from leading academics who have been examining key issues in the debate.
A paperback version of the book, titled Scotland’s Decision - 16 Questions to think about for the referendum on 18 September, is also planned by its producers, which include businessman Sir Tom Hunter’s Hunter Foundation.
At the same time the Scottish Government is spending £550,000 sending a 12 page guide to the opportunities it says independence offers to all 2.5 million homes north of the border.
Meanwhile the UK Government will this week start sending out a leaflet to Scottish homes, setting it out what it believes are the five main benefits of remaining in the Union.
But Sir Tom said the decision voters will make on September 18 was “too important to leave to politicians to inform us”.
The Ayrshire-born entrepreneur said: “Like many voters, I am genuinely undecided, but I don’t feel that the campaigns so far have given me the facts and unbiased assessment to make a properly informed decision. I know I am not alone in thinking this way.
“A recent poll commissioned by the Hunter Foundation and published in early July showed 56% of undecided voters simply don’t feel they have enough impartial information to make a decision. And 45% of all voters claim they don’t trust either the UK or the Scottish Government’s predictions
“This series of papers we hope will bring some light upon the critical issues voters may wish to consider in making up their minds when they put a cross on the ballot paper on September 18.”
The book has been produced jointly with the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Future of the UK and Scotland programme and the David Hume Institute think tank.
Professor Charlie Jeffery, of the University of Edinburgh, who directs the ESRC research programme on the referendum, commented: “Many voters know more or less by instinct how they will vote, but there are more still - probably the biggest single group - who don’t have such conviction either way and are puzzling their way through what voting Yes or No might mean for them and their families.
“This book is for them. We have taken sixteen questions, which seem to us to be central to the referendum debate, and asked impartial experts to look at them.”
He added: “We do not aim to provide definitive answers - and we certainly do not intend to tell anyone how to vote - but rather to enable readers to better judge the claims that are made by either side.”
Ray Perman, director of the David Hume Institute stated: “The answers to so many important questions about how an independent Scotland would fare are unknown - and in some cases, unknowable - in advance. That makes it very hard for undecided voters to reach a conclusion. We have asked experts to sum up the arguments on both sides and use their research knowledge and judgment to assess where the balance might lie.”
Both the Scottish and UK governments are posting out new leaflets to homes across Scotland from next week.
Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “Independence is not a magic wand - but it is undoubtedly the greatest chance we will ever have to shift the balance of opportunity in Scotland’s favour and make our wealth work better for everyone who lives here.
“We are one of the richest countries in the world, with a higher GDP per head than France, Japan and the UK. But for far too many people in Scotland it doesn’t feel that way. This guide sets out why we’re better off with Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands.”
She added: “It is crucial that everyone in Scotland is armed with the facts and has a clear picture of the opportunities to change their lives for the better with independence.
“There is certainly an appetite for this information - with over 140,000 orders for Scotland’s Future already received - and our new guide makes it even easier to get the key facts quickly and easily.
“Scotland has the people, skills and resources to be a strong independent country, and this guide will set out how we can build on that.”
Meanwhile the UK Government says its leaflets on the benefits Scotland gets from the UK will cost about 12p a piece, with the total bill coming in at approximately £300,000.
Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael said: “We are only weeks away from the most important decision we will ever make as a country. A decision to leave the UK is forever and cannot be reversed. We need to make sure we get it right. People in Scotland need to have the facts before they vote on September 18.”
He added: “People want credible and reliable information to help them make their decision on independence. Our new leaflet highlights the five main benefits for Scotland of remaining part of the UK.”