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Wings Over Scotland

Eyes on the prize

Posted on January 30, 2013 by

This is the referendum question the Scottish Government wanted:

“Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country? YES/NO”

This is the referendum question the Unionist parties wanted:

“Voters should be presented with a statement on the ballot paper: ‘Scotland should become an independent state’, and asked to put an ‘X’ against ‘I agree’ or ‘I disagree’.”

This, we’re told today, is what the referendum question will be:

“Should Scotland be an independent country? YES/NO”

Yep, sounds like another “comprehensive defeat” for the SNP all right.

It’s worth taking a moment to point out that the Scottish Government, contrary to numerous media reports, has NOT in fact “conceded” that it will accept the Electoral Commission‘s apparently-leaked findings. The First Minister was carefully equivocal on last night’s extended Scotland Tonight interview, maintaining what’s been an unbroken official line that the Scottish Parliament will make the final decision (despite numerous newspaper articles blatantly misrepresenting statements by Blair Jenkins and Nicola Sturgeon to suggest otherwise).

We wouldn’t yet entirely discount the original wording, though on balance the SNP will probably consider it not worth the months of orchestrated shrieking from the media it would provoke. If they do decide to let go of “Do you agree”, the Unionists will undoubtedly proclaim a victory, and frankly we’ll be very slightly disappointed. We’d rather the Scottish Government defended the principle of its electoral mandate than accept being bullied out of its rights by the losing parties and the press.

But by far the more important outcome is to ensure the “YES/NO” formulation, and if the Electoral Commission’s involvement has indeed secured that then to be honest we’re not very fussed about the rest of it. Because for the first time, the anti-independence parties will finally be forced to admit that they’re campaigning for a No vote, and judging by the strenuous efforts they’ve made to avoid that word at all costs until now, that’s a trophy well worth sacrificing “Do you agree” for.

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    43 to “Eyes on the prize”

    1. Vincent McDee says:

      Maybe aye, maybe nay. Who knows!

      Well, Mr Who does know, but he’s not telling just yet, maybe tomorrow. 

    2. Aucheorn says:

      Oh dear, and here’s me thinking the Yes Scotland campaign were going to have to change their name and junk all their posters and literature.

    3. MajorBloodnok says:

      Even when the issue of the question is settled I am sure the Unionists will find some other niggle regarding ‘process’ to try to bash the Scottish Government with.  Still, it does mean that they can avoid going into specifics as to what a NO vote would acatually mean for Scotland.

      Vote YES!  Vote I AGREE!  Just Vote.

    4. muttley79 says:

      I honestly can’t really see the difference the wording makes?  It is actually shorter than the original one, from nine words to six words, and is still a Yes/No question.  It was not like the Quebec referendum ones at all in the first place.  Seems to me the No parties have been pissing against the wind again.

    5. redcliffe62 says:

      Should Scotland “have the option to” be an independent country.
      That way the doubters can say yes even if they are not sure. 
      The commission could not complain and worth 5%. 

    6. Tattie-boggle says:

      Do you agree ? That do you agree, is already out there anyway. the SG has played a blinder !!!

    7. Tattie-boggle says:

      Do you agree ? That do you agree is already out there , the SG has played a blinder !

    8. Morag says:

      I agree with Stu.  Very slightly disappointed, but I suspect this was the plan all along.  Float wording based on the 1997 question, allow the unionists to work themselves into a shrieking frenzy about it, then quietly concede the “do you agree?” part.

      I’m very happy if it ends up a yes/no option.  I remember the 1997 referendum.  I was extremely politically aware, I was an SNP activist and branch officebearer, and I was expecting to walk into the polling booth and vote yes/yes.

      I was presented with a couple of questions which did not have yes/no options.  I had to read the whole thing several times in order to be absolutely sure I was voting the right way.  Now, the majority was clear and there is no evidence anyone got it wrong.  However, I’m educated up to PhD level and knew exactly what I wanted to vote for, and even I was slightly fazed by that ballot paper.

      Yes/no it is.  Fine by me.

    9. muttley79 says:

      Severin Carroll’s article on Guardian webpage open for comments:  


    10. scottish_skier says:

      “Should Scotland be an independent country? YES/NO”

      I quite like that. Obviously, if you think Scotland should be an independent country at some point in the future (when the time is right) but you don’t think it’s ideal at the moment you are voting (2014), the answer is still ‘YES’ because you do think Scotland should be an independent country. Simples.

      Lot of silliness going on in the pro-union campaign methinks.

      So long as the answer options are Yes vs No it’s ideal.

    11. andrew_haddow says:

      “Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country? YES/NO”
      Em, ah, haud on, I’ll have to think about that…
      “Should Scotland be an independent country? YES/NO”
      Of course it bloody should! 

    12. Cuphook says:

      After two years of campaigning, during which all the issues are examined in detail, I really can’t see anyone being persuaded into changing their mind at the last moment by the ‘Do you agree’.
      The choices in answering the question are YES or NO, which means that at some point the BT crowd are going to have to alert people to their preference, no more skirting around the issue, they will have to campaign openly for NO.
      If there is to be a fight with the Electoral Commission let it be over the more important matter of funding.

    13. scottish_skier says:

      Based on polls, around 7 in 10 of the Scots electorate believe that Scotland should be an independent country (in an ideal world).

      We’ll get confirmation on this in 2014. 

    14. creag an tuirc says:

      I agree with Tattie-boggle, the “do you agree” pre-fix is already in the public domain’s consciousness. The question “Should Scotland be an indepenent country?” well, my inner voice says “Yes, I agree with that” The SG has got exactly what it wanted, YES. The BBC is taking it’s time putting this up on their website, they’ll be spinning and spinning and spinning 🙂

    15. turnip_ghost says:

      Thought I’d take a look at the BT campaign FB page…I was about to reply to it but then thought “Why bother?” I’ll just end up getting lots of useless updates and end up annoying myself.

      This is their status update at 11:20am

      Better Together
      13 minutes ago

      BREAKING: Victory for Better Together campaigners as the nationalists FINALLY accept Electoral Commission rules for referendum. Thanks to everyone who campaigned for this and for the thousands who signed our joint letter calling for fair referendum rules.

      FINALLY? It’s been 20 minutes!!!!!


    16. Swello says:

      I hope those 27,000 signatures are on their way back to the No Campaign – I hope they accept the proposals of the electoral commission in full.

    17. muttley79 says:

      As I reckon Salmond will accept this slight change in the question, surely the pollsters will have to start asking a straight Yes/No question for their polls now?  Hopefully no more Devo-Max option surveys.

    18. william pirrie says:

      No Better Together will no doubt trump this as a victory, anyone with any sense will see that they have fallen for the trap yet again.

    19. JuanBonnets says:

      Long time reader, first time commenter here. I have to agree that the most important things to emerge from this is 1) an easily understandable question, and 2) the retention of the YES/NO format. 

      I honestly don’t see the difference between the proposed “do you agree…” form and the “should…” form – as has been discussed here and elsewhere at length for a while, no one will care about the wording of the question as long as the choice of answers is clear.

      Possibly the best part though? I got the impression that the Unionists’ attempts to falsely portray the Electoral Commission as the impartial paragon of virtue who should be the final arbiter for everything was at least partly because they were hoping for a suggestion to include “… separate from the UK” in the question, or to change to an I AGREE/I DISAGREE answer format. Now that the Commission has gone with the Government’s preferred YES/NO format there can be absolutely no complaints!

    20. Silverytay says:

      As I posted on one site last night , A.S and the S.N.P were aware that the E.C were made up of unionists when they drafted the original question . Considering A.S has played a blinder so far , I am sure that the original question was some form of trap for the unionists .
      While I cant see what that is , I am sure everything will be revealed in the next few months .
      As the E.C has been feeding this story to the media before telling the Scottish Government , I am hoping that A.S will get some form of leverage to use against the E.C .
      as for the new question , if the Scottish Government say they are happy to go with it then I dont have a problem . 

    21. Aplinal says:

      From the EC report – my emphasis.
      The majority of people who responded commented on how the question was formulated, with views ranging from those who strongly supported the current formulation; those who said even if the question was leading it would not have much impact on the result; to those who were strongly of the view that it was a leading question.
      So in reality, the question was NOT biased to any extent.  In fact ANY question biased to some degree.  However, the proposed change actually changes NOTHING.  A bit of a waste of time and money, but the answer is still YES – and that’s the important bit.

    22. Dunc says:

      A canny negotiator always includes something they’re prepared to give up…

    23. Clarinda says:

      I have always wondered if the “Do you agree” was added to embed as a first positive ‘Yes’ impression with the likely built-in redundancy of it being questioned/edited resulting in the shorter and more imperative “Should Scotland be an independent country” – Yes/No.

      It’s like an opening bid where you demand more than you can reasonably expect only to end up – if you are a skilled negotiator – with the price/prize that you really wanted in the first place.

      Should we – Yes, we shall.    

    24. Clarinda says:

      Dunc – oops, you beat me to it!

    25. Brian Norman says:

      First post! I like the question, it elicits an instant Yes! The EC conclusions also request the UK government to engage in exploring the results of independence. If they do, great, if they don’t, a stick for us to beat them with.

    26. benarmine says:


    27. Doug Daniel says:

      I must say, I’m disappointed. FOr as long as I can remember, I’ve dreamt of the day I would get to vote in a straight YES/NO referendum asking if Scotland should be an independent country.

      But those cunning unionists have played an absolute blinder, so now I’ll be forced to vote in a straight YES/NO referendum asking if Scotland should be an independent country.


    28. Birnie says:

      At least we can now refer to them officially as the No-bodies!

    29. muttley79 says:

      The No campaign are only geniuses in their own minds…

    30. Seasick Dave says:

      Scottish Electoral Commissioner John McCormick said voters were entitled to have confidence in the result of the referendum.
      He said: “We have rigorously tested the proposed question, speaking to a wide range of people across Scotland
      “Any referendum question must be, and be seen to be, neutral. People told us that they felt the words ‘Do you agree’ could lead voters towards voting ‘yes’

      He’s quite correct you know.

      I’ve looked at the amended question and now the scales have been lifted from my eyes I’ll be voting NO. 

    31. Erchie says:

      The “Do you agree” question was formulated when the competency of the Scottish Parliament to hold the referendum could have been challenged, and the “do you agree” acted as a fudge, to distance it from question that could have been seen as too close, wiggle-room if you like.
      Now the competency is established, I suppose “DO you agree” is unnecessary now

    32. John Böttcher says:

      Lamont: “We also welcome the suggestion that both sides of this debate clarify what will happen after the referendum.” – So Ms. Lamont, will you now set out what a “No” vote will mean in clear terms?

      I think she’ll regret this statement. 

    33. Indy_Scot says:

      I don’t think it is right that a group of individuals, most of whom are probably unionists, should decide the referendum question, even if they are rubbish at it.

      The question should be made in Scotland.

    34. scottish_skier says:

      Past YesScotland meeting with Nicola present…
      Right folks, how much do we have guaranteed for the final campaign?
      £1.5 million? Ok, let’s suggest a limit of £750 k to the electoral commission. 

    35. pmcrek says:

      Anyone else actually prefer the Electoral Commissions question like me? It seems a bit more abstract and less urgent.
      Rev, I wouldn’t worry about unionist crying victory it’ll only last until tomorrow at which point  they’ll either be accusing the SNP or Yes camp of some made-up shenanigans over ashtray regulations or informing us that there is no guarantee Westminster wouldnt be forced to remove Scottish oxygen in event of independence.

    36. Mister Worf says:

      I think this is completely the wrong question either way. The original question was of course, horrendously biased and would make people vote yes because it was such an evil negative phrase from the evil negative Yes Scotland campaign (even a negative name: Everyone knows yes is a negative word!). But this question doesn’t give us an answer to the real issues that face an Independent Scotland. DALEKS! Will an independent Scotland be protected from the Daleks?! 

      The question CLEARLY should be worded to remind people that Daleks are dangerous, and that The Doctor mostly arrives in a quarry in Wales and pretends it’s London. An Independent Scotland could very well put the whole universe at risk!
      Alex Salmond MUST answer if we can resist a Dalek attack!  And there are other threats too, like Sontarans, Sea Devils, and Cyberna… I mean, Cybermen. Even if we remain in UNIT we may object to basing anti-Dalek lasers in Scotland!

      And what of other insidious alien menaces? Like Reapers, the immortal race of sentient starships allegedly waiting in dark space? Alex Salmond  may have dismissed that claim but we should still be scared witless by the prospect of a Reaper attack sometime in 2186! And what of Scottish contributions to the Stargate and X-Com projects?  

      Let’s not also forget the economic worries! As you know, we will be forced to leave the United Federation of Planets and ask to rejoin. How can we expect to be able to trade and survive and make any money?! Never mind that the Westminster government wants to have a vote on leaving it, that’s completely different and OF NO RISK AT ALL to our economy unlike this dangerous separation from the rest of the universe!

      Let’s not also forget that the share of the Spice and Tiberium will be split on population grounds, of course. It’s sheer madness to think that just because 90% of the Spice and 94% of the Tiberium grows in Scottish territory that Scotland should get that much! No, it’s CLEARLY got to be a fair distribution by population grounds! 92% for the UK, 8% for the Treasury! And no, Scotland can’t get any of the Vespene gas mined by fracking near Blackpool, that’s CLEARLY in England and CLEARLY divided geographically!

      After all, by living in such a fantasy world, the Unionists have already proven they have what it takes to stop rampaging Dragons, Goblins, Orcs, Uruk-Hai, and the French. Er, Elves. But can Independence truly see us resist attacks of a Sci-Fi nature by Daleks, Reapers, Klingons, or Benedict Cumberbatch and his army of lens flares?

      THESE are the issues that MUST be resolved! But getting rid of that biased question is a good start though. That at least is a resounding victory for the Cling-On Empire!

    37. Craig P says:

      pmcrek – yes, I prefer the Electoral Commission’s question. The fact that campaign funding will be largely equal is also important. Like the timing of the referendum and the fact that devo max will not be included as an option, it seems that the no camp have conceded every point so far to the yes camp, for the concession of a couple of irrelevant scraps.

    38. andrew_haddow says:

      I like the Electoral Commission’s question. The answer is so self-evidently YES!!!

    39. blunttrauma says:

      Should Scotland be an independent country?…………Hell yeah!!!

    40. Cranachan says:

      Interesting, have just received this from ‘a Darling’ and his bitter friends:
      Dear Kate,
      The Electoral Commission have now published their recommendations on the question for the referendum and on campaign finance. You can read it here.
      I am pleased that this impartial body has rejected the fixed referendum question which Alex Salmond demanded.
      They have also rejected the nationalist attempts to silence their opponents by setting spending limits that would have given them an unfair advantage.
      The commission’s experts have also said that nationalist attempts to gag business, unions and civil society are wrong.
      However we think that once the referee has blown the whistle the players should obey the decision. That is why months ago we said we would accept the Commission’s recommendations in their entirety.
      Over the past few months, we have called on the nationalists to follow our lead and agree to having the Electoral Commission set the rules. It looks like we have won that argument. Alex Salmond has had to concede that he cannot  be both the referee and player in this particular game.  Thanks to the thousands of you who joined our campaign for fair referendum rules.
      Now that the rules have been agreed we can get on with the debate. It is a debate that we intend to win. We are Better Together with our friends, families and workmates from across the UK. It is a message that, I’m sure, the majority of Scots can agree with.
      The Rt Hon Alistair Darling MP
      Better Together
      Campaign HQ
      5 Blythswood Square
      G2 4AD
      PS You can donate to the campaign by clicking here

    41. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

      “I am pleased that this impartial body has […] rejected the nationalist attempts to silence their opponents by setting spending limits that would have given them an unfair advantage.”

      Your jaw just drops at the sheer audacity of it.

    42. Megsmaw says:

      Good to see that reverse psychology works! Well done Alex, they fell for it just like the bunch of bairns they are!

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