Public Law

Recently, the Electoral Commission (the body responsible for, among other things, reporting on the referendum process) produced a report on the progress of preparations for the referendum, and made recommendations to the Scottish and UK Governments on the next steps of the process. You can find the report here, and can find the Commission’s press release here. Media coverage of the report can also be found here.

The report outlines that the Commission’s assessment is that preparations are on track for delivering a “well-run referendum”.

In particular, the Commission commented on both the Scottish Independence Referendum (Franchise) Act 2013 – which gives those aged 16 or above on the date of the poll (I’m sure everyone has 18 September 2014 marked in their calendar already) the right to vote in the referendum – and The Scottish Independence Referendum Bill, which, among other things, provides the question to be asked on 18 September 2014. The report is complimentary of both the 2013 Act and the Bill (and, unsurprisingly, welcomes the fact that the Scottish Government followed the Commission’s advice when deciding the question which will be put to voters).

Perhaps most significantly, the report recommends that both the Scottish and the UK Governments should agree a joint statement by 20 December 2013 (to coincide with the expected Royal Assent to the Referendum Bill) outlining the process that would follow the referendum if there was a ‘yes’ vote or a ‘no’ vote.

As the report outlines, the Commission’s understanding is that discussions between both Governments are taking place on this matter. That said, the media has quoted a Scotland Office spokesman as saying “This should not be confused with negotiations. As ministers have said on many occasions, there will be no pre-referendum negotiations.”

Whether both sides can satisfy the Commission’s recommendation by agreeing what the process that would follow the referendum would entail, remains to be seen. Perhaps we should only be marking our diaries as ‘tentative’ for 20 December…