Thursday, 20 October 2016

Response to the consultation on the 2016 referendum bill

The following is my response to the Scottish Government's consultation on the new referendum bill. If you have not completed the consultation I urge you to do so. Questions are in italics; my responses in plain text.

Questions

1 What are your views on the proposed arrangements for managing the referendum?

One of the features of the 2014 campaign was that several groups, including but not limited to the Radical Independence Campaign, ran voter registration drives especially in poorer urban areas, resulting in a significant number of people who had not been registered choosing to register.

Towards the end of the campaign we received advice that this wouldn't be permitted in future, because of new electoral registration legislation. I am not certain of the validity of this advice.

It is essential if the people of Scotland are to vote that civic society voter registration drives are encouraged, and not prevented.

2 What are your views on the proposed technical changes to polling and count arrangements?

I'm concerned that '100% checking' may make it more difficult to register homeless people to vote. There are particular problems with helping homeless people to register anyway - many are vulnerable and may have literacy of other problems, and many are exceedingly wary of any interaction with the state. I'm also not clear what '100% checking' would mean in their case.

I'm also not clear why 'persons over the age of 16 who are normally resident in Scotland' would not suffice. Why, for example, should Syrian or Afghani refugees, settled here, be excluded from this vote?

3 What are your views on the proposed changes to rules on permissible participants?

Schedule 4, para 2, reads:

"For the purposes of this schedule, each of the following is a “permissible donor”—
(a)an individual registered in an electoral register,
(b)a company—
(i)registered under the Companies Act 2006,
(ii)incorporated within the United Kingdom or another member State, and
(iii)carrying on business in the United Kingdom,"

The referendum is a matter for the people of Scotland. It is not at all clear to me what standing a company registered outside Scotland has to seek to influence the outcome.

I believe that item (i) should be amended to read 'Registered in Scotland under the Companies Act 2006' and that item (ii) should be struck out.


[for clarity, I did not make any comment to questions 4 and 5 as these seemed to me uncontroversial]
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