EU in/out vote and Holyrood elections ‘could clash’

DAVID Cameron has not ruled out the possibility that the European Union referendum could fall on the same day as the Scottish Parliament elections next year.
Prime Minister David Cameron. Picture: PAPrime Minister David Cameron. Picture: PA
Prime Minister David Cameron. Picture: PA

During Prime Minister’s questions, Mr Cameron left open the possibility of a double-up with next year’s Holyrood election on 5 May, amid suggestions that he hopes to hold the referendum in 2016.

Under questioning from acting Labour leader Harriet Harman, Mr Cameron also made it clear that he had decided to exempt the UK government from purdah rules, which prevent the government machinery being used in the short campaign for the referendum.

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The decision to not have purdah during the referendum campaign has infuriated many eurosceptic Tory backbenchers who have raised concerns that the full machinery of government could be used in the campaign.

Former cabinet minister Owen Paterson warned that “voters will not accept a rigged election”.

But Mr Cameron said: “When it came to the Scottish referendum, I actually felt in the last few weeks before the referendum the UK government was often being advised it couldn’t take a view on the future of the UK. I think that was a ridiculous situation, which is why we have put forward the change to the purdah rules.”

On the date of the referendum, the interim Labour leader said she “strongly agreed” with the Electoral Commission that referendum polling day should not feature any other elections.

The Prime Minister said: “My view is the timing of the referendum should be determined by the timing of the renegotiation. When the renegotiation is complete, we set a date for the referendum.”