The election watchdog is delivering its finding on the Scottish government’s independence referendum question. The Electoral Commission has spent the last few months assessing the SNP government’s preferred wording on the ballot paper in autumn 2014. It wants to ask voters the yes/no question: “Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?” Final approval of the referendum arrangements rests with the Scottish Parliament. Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond previously described his government’s question as “short, straightforward and clear”, but critics say the wording is biased. There has been speculation the Electoral Commission may reword the ballot paper, inviting voters to record “I agree” or “I disagree” to a general statement about independence.
The Scottish government’s suggested question is: Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country? Some say that is too inclusive, too inviting. Experts commissioned by the opposition parties suggested there should instead be a preface statement on the ballot paper – “Scotland should become an independent state” – with the option to tick a box marked “I agree” or another marked “I do not agree.”
Seems likely that something along those lines – with the alternative agree/disagree options on the ballot paper – will find favour with the commission. The commission’s guidance says a referendum question must be easy to understand and should avoid misleading voters or encouraging them to vote a certain way.
A panel of experts chaired by Lord Sutherland, along with the referendum and election experts Matt Qvortrup and Ron Gould, was set up by Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats to devise an alternative question.