Scottish independence: Darling ‘bullying’ Electoral Commission, says SNP

alistair-darling.jpg
Former Chancellor Alastair Darling has been accused of bullying the
Electoral Commission over Scotland's independence referendum

Scottish independence: Darling ‘bullying’ Electoral Commission, says SNP

by Jo Edwards

The UK Electoral Commission has begun an assessment of the Scottish government’s proposed question for the 2014 independence referendum amid accusations of ambiguity by former Chancellor Alistair Darling.

The review, spearheaded by John McCormick, the Scottish commissioner on the UK electoral watchdog stated that it will “assess the referendum question to see whether voters find it clear, simple and neutral. If it isn't, we'll say what needs to be done”.

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Ministers have stated that the inquiry will be of the ‘highest international standards’. This follows a request from First Minister Alex Salmond to test the coherence, clarity and simplicity of the question prior to the poll, amid criticisms of its possible bias towards a ‘yes’ vote by not mentioning an end to the Union.

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon followed this up by stating that the aim of testing was “to check that it is easy to understand, to the point and unambiguous”.

The proceedings have already been mired in disagreement however, with the SNP claiming that former Chancellor, Alistair Darling is bullying the Electoral Commission in an attempt to influence its deliberations on Scotland’s referendum question and branding his conduct as “utterly shameless”.

Despite a substantial majority of the 26,000 respondents to the consultation on the referendum finding that the Scottish government’s proposed wording was clear and understandable, the Labour politician has been quoted as describing the question as “skewed” and “another attempt to rig the question” in a broadside that is clearly intended to influence the Electoral Commission’s process, argues the SNP.

The referendum - due to be held in autumn 2014 - came after the UK and Scottish governments recently signed a deal on its terms, known as the Edinburgh Agreement.

Commenting, SNP MSP Annabelle Ewing said:

“It is utterly shameless of Alistair Darling and other anti-independence politicians to talk up the Electoral Commission at the same time as using every opportunity to try and influence their findings.

“It does not say much for their trust in the Electoral Commission if the anti-independence campaign is determined to dictate to them what their findings should be.

“Instead of trying to bully the Electoral Commission into giving him what he wants, Alistair Darling should back off and let them do their job.

“The Electoral Commission has a set procedure for examining the fairness of questions and will report back to the Scottish Parliament – that’s the way it should be, and Mr Darling should have respect for that process.

“The fact of the matter is that decisions affecting Scotland are best taken by the people of Scotland, who by definition care the most about what happens here. That is the inescapable truth to which the anti-independence campaign simply has no response.”

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published this page in News 2012-11-12 16:59:29 +0000