Scottish independence: Call for Citizen’s Panel

A REFERENDUM Citizen’s Panel should be created to oversee the independence debate, amid concern voters are being treated like “idiots”, according to a seasoned veteran of the nationalist movement.
Margo MacDonald: 'People cant be corralled into party lines for this one'. Picture: GettyMargo MacDonald: 'People cant be corralled into party lines for this one'. Picture: Getty
Margo MacDonald: 'People cant be corralled into party lines for this one'. Picture: Getty

Margo MacDonald says many Scots are being lost in the volley of exchanges and reports from both sides on issues such as currency union, the EU and oil and gas figures.

The impartial body she backs would be free of party political involvement and could be presided over by a neutral figure like an ex-judge or sheriff in an effort to ensure Scots get more of a handle on the key issues at stake.

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The independent MSP for the Lothians says that the key players in the Yes and No campaigns have been “talking politics at each other”.

Polls consistently show that voters feel they are not well enough informed about the issues surrounding the historic vote in September next year.

“This debate is for every single person who will vote in Scotland and even those who won’t vote,” she said.

“It’s an individual thing, not a party thing and people can’t be corralled into neat party lines for this one.

“This is something for the people and if you really want it you can have a Citizen’s Panel to oversee everything. All parties are then bound to treat people like grown-ups, instead of treating them like idiots just now.”

The panel could issue its own literature and monitor and comment on reports coming from both sides in an effort to engage more Scots in the process.

“It would act as some kind of guide, I think,” Ms MacDonald said.

“The only thing that Better Together have not said is that there will be a plague of boils every Tuesday, while Nicola Sturgeon is promising a bag of sweets every Tuesday. It’s too polarised around these parties and the leading personalities.

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“It should be more about issues about whether or not we always want an open border or do we want the political power to shut our own borders if we needed to and consider that from a Scottish or British point of view.”

The former Nationalist MP and MSP says Scotland should cast an eye back to the UK’s referendum on membership of the European economic community in the 1970s when there was an “even-handed, household distribution of information on the common market”.

She said: “This was straight information – like how many countries there was in it, this is the size of them, this is the votes you would have, this is when you would be able to exercise a veto. That’s the kind of thing that should used this time.”

A spokesman for Yes Scotland said yesterday the idea was “worth considering” .

The Better Together campaign said: “It is the nature of the debate that there will be opposing sides arguing in favour of completely different positions and having a robust exchange of views.”