You would think that the SNP would have had all its plans for the referendum totally thought through. After all, this was a manifesto pledge in 2007 so they’ve had at least five years to work out the detail of it all.
Instead, since Mike Moore launched the UK Government’s consultation, the SNP has increasingly looked like it’s making up its policy on the hoof.
Thankfully, many of the process issues between the UK and Scottish Governments are on their way to being resolved. It looks very much as if the referendum will be in Autumn 2014 as the SNP want, and it will be supervised by the Electoral Commission (reporting to the Scottish Parliament) as everyone except the SNP wants.
However, two main issues remain. The SNP, despite being in favour of independence alone, are desperate to get a question on a third option, devo max, onto the ballot despite shedloads of evidence, including from their own constitutional expert, that this may not give a clear result. I say this as someone who, given the chance, would vote for devo max. Almost half of Liberal Democrats asked by Liberal Democrat Voice, agree with me. I just think that there is more than one way to skin that particular cat. I saw Mike Moore tell a party meeting on Friday with great passion that this is about more than a choice between independence and the status quo. If independence is rejected, there must be an ongoing process of devolution.
The final issue to be resolved is that the SNP say they want 16 and 17 year olds to be able to vote in the referendum.Now, to make sure that people who turn 18 are able to vote the day they turn 18, 16 and 17 year olds are included in the annual canvass. So, if you’re going to be 18 on 30th November, you will have been put on the electoral roll published on 1st December the year before with the date next to your name.
Liberal Democrat Scottish Deputy Leader Jo Swinson has found out that they don’t intend to include 14 or 15 year olds in the canvass the year before the Referendum. So, if you turn 16 any time between the publication of the register and the referendum, you will not be able to have your say. That’s just not fair.
The Electoral Register for the Referendum will be published on 1 December 2013 for the poll in Autumn 2014. The data for it will be collected in the canvass in Autumn 2013 and will include anyone who turns 16 on or before 15 October 2013. If all 16 year olds are going to get the vote, it needs to include anyone who turns 14 on or before that date.
Frankly, though, why change the qualification on age for just one election? It doesn’t feel right. I want to see votes at 16 for every single election.. I doubt that the SNP would be quite so keen to extend the franchise if there were polls showing 16 year olds were against independence. You can’t go about altering electorates for the gain of your own cause.
Jo Swinson said:
“The plans are chaotic. It’s no longer votes at 16 but votes at sixteen and three quarters.
“This is a skew-whiff plan that is poorly thought out and if implemented would create considerable resentment between those 16 year olds who would have a vote and those who wouldn’t.
“This shows why the franchise should not be fiddled with just for the referendum.
“Liberal Democrats support votes at 16 but at for all elections, not just the ones the SNP choose.
“The SNP should drop their skew-whiff plans.”
Nice use of “skew-whiff” as well. Feels very retro.