22 Jun 2012
The Scottish Government has been urged to take part in further talks next week to discuss the wording of the referendum question.
In a joint letter sent from Scottish Conservative Leader Ruth Davidson, Labour Leader Johann Lamont and Liberal Democrat Leader Willie Rennie, First Minister Alex Salmond has been invited to discuss a proposal which would see a body of constitutional experts given the task of framing a single question to be put to the Electoral Commission for scrutiny.
Scottish Conservative Leader Ruth Davidson MSP said:
“The people of Scotland deserve a fair question that will frame the most important decision Scotland has faced in 300 years.
“Such a task should be given to respected constitutional experts, who are best placed to decide on the fairest form of words to be put on the ballot paper for the proposed referendum, and all parties need to be satisfied with the process.
“We need a speedy resolution to this issue, so we can have a substantial debate on what a separate Scotland would look like.”
Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont MSP said:
“Whatever the result of this referendum, it is vital that the day after it all of Scotland can come together to build a better future for our nation.
“If we are to achieve that then the process of the referendum must be beyond question.
“That is why we believe that the process of setting a single question should be taken out of the hands of elected politicians and given to relevant experts the public can have faith in.
“All the parties agree that a single question is what we want. We are now calling on Alex Salmond to join us to ensure the wording of it is clear, fair and simple – and most of all trusted by the Scottish people.”
Scottish Liberal Democrats leader Willie Rennie MSP said:
“With a decision as important as this it is vital that the question facing us is crystal clear.
“Every example from across the world shows that if the question asked is not fair and unambiguous, then the debate leading up to the vote is more likely to become confused.
“That is why I want one clear question on the ballot paper so, when we all go to vote, we can put a cross in a box and know exactly what we are voting for and how our vote’s going to be counted.”
Notes to Editors
Dear First Minister,
Following the cross-party meeting on February 9, 2012, between yourself and the opposition leaders there was a general agreement to meet again to reach a consensus on the issues surrounding the referendum.
Since that date no further talks have been suggested by the First Minister’s office.
Therefore, we would like to extend an invitation to meet with us before the end of the Parliamentary term next week, as your diary allows.
The substantial issue is the wording of the referendum question and we very much hope to have a constructive discussion on producing a form of words that the people of Scotland can have confidence in.
To that end we would like to discuss with you taking this process out of the hands of elected politicians and asking a body of relevant experts to suggest one question which can then be put to the Electoral Commission. We believe that an eminent academic of similar standing to Professor Ron Gould should be tasked with assembling such a group which all parties can then agree.
We are sure you agree that ensuring that the public have the utmost confidence in the fairness of this referendum is paramount and we believe we can, and must, work together to achieve this.
We look forward to a speedy response.