Scottish referendum wording altered

Thu, Jan 31, 2013, 00:00

Scottish first minister Alex Salmond’s wording for the independence referendum has been changed following a decision from the electoral commission that more neutral language was required.

Scottish NationalParty ministers had planned to ask voters in an October 2014 poll: “Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?”

The party has welcomed the commission’s decision effusively.

The commission said: “We found that the language in the proposed question is clear, simple and easy to understand. However, we also concluded that the words ‘Do you agree’ potentially encouraged people to vote Yes and should be replaced by more neutral wording.”

The SNP, meanwhile, has received a boost from the commission in that pro-independence political parties will be allowed spend slightly more than those that want to keep the union.

Spending limits

The commission’s figures have to be approved at Holyrood, but the SNP has a majority.

The two main campaign groups, Yes Scotland and Better Together, will each be permitted to spend £1.5 million in the four months before polling. This is based on the parties’ vote in the last election.

This gives the SNP £1.34 million and Labour £834,000. The Conservatives, a much-weakened force in Scottish politics, will be allowed spend £396,000; the Liberal Democrats £201,000; and the pro-independence Greens £150,000.

Meanwhile, British foreign secretary William Hague said the UK’s demands for European Union reforms would bind the 27 member states more closely together rather than break the union apart.

Unworkable

“We do not have a one-size-fits-all approach for all now, because it would be unworkable. Far from unravelling the EU, flexibility could bind us more closely together, because flexible, willing co-operation is a much stronger glue than compulsion from the centre,” he told MPs in a House of Commons debate yesterday.

Prime minister David Cameron was repeatedly applauded by Tory MPs for his pledge to hold a referendum in 2017 on the UK’s EU membership terms.

Defending Mr Cameron’s decision, Mr Hague said the EU had changed “profoundly” in nature over the last 20 years without the approval of the British people.

“That problem is not unique to Britain – one in every three voters in France’s recent election voted for parties that advocated leaving the EU – but it is particularly acute in Britain,” the foreign secretary said.