The Scottish Government’s Separation Bill consultation


It won’t have passed your notice that the SNP Scottish Government have just launched a Consultation on a Draft Referendum Bill.  You’ll see I call it something different, but they use the language they want to, so why shouldn’t I? I’ll hold off what I think about the Bill itself – you can guess – but I just wanted to focus on the nature of the consultation itself.

In a past life I worked for various public authorities and saw the idea of consultation evolve from perfunctory attempts to give a gloss of endorsement to something you were going to do anyhow, to notions like co-production where citizens are involved in the creation and possibly delivery of public policies and services. Fancy words, but you’ll get the point – that there are many steps on what some call a ‘ladder of participation.’

One of the points of good practice I tried to instil in colleagues was that you should always give people a chance to say what they want, not just what you want them to. At its most basic this is quite simple. After you’ve asked your questions you add a box that says something like ‘Are there any other comments you’d like to make? (Please write them here).’

The government’s mis-named ‘consultation on a draft referendum Bill’ falls down on this fundamental ground (amongst others).

What they want your views on are what might be called technical proposals related to a Bill:

  1. What are your views on the proposed arrangements for managing a referendum?
  2. What are your views on the proposed technical changes to polling and count arrangements?
  3. What are your views on the proposed changes to rules on permissible participants?
  4. What are your views on the proposed campaign rules and rules on spending?
  5. What are your views on the proposed changes to the rules on permissible participants’ expenses and transactions between qualifying and non-qualifying persons?

Nowhere can you offer an opinion on any other aspect of the subject. This is not a consultation on a draft Bill. It’s a consultation on some details related to a potential Bill.

What of course the government won’t get (and don’t want to hear) is the answer to the question ‘Do you want another referendum?’

That’s why, in the absence of an ‘Other comments’ box, I have answered their first question as follows:


and written ‘None’ against every other question.

I’ve said on the covering sheet that I’m happy for my response to be published along with my name. I will be interested to see if it is and whether the analysis of the overall response includes a statement along the lines of ‘x respondents said they did not want another referendum.’

You can of course ignore the ‘consultation.’ It will at least keep the baying packs of new-ish SNP members happy under the delusion that it makes a re-run of the 2014 referendum more likely. It won’t.

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8 Responses to The Scottish Government’s Separation Bill consultation

  1. Ron Sturrock says:

    I’m minded to say I do not want another referendum to every question.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Eric Sinclair says:

    By sheer coincidence I had just written to our local SNP MP when I saw your latest post. This is what I said:

    Dear Mr Donaldson

    You will not be unaware that the Scottish Government has published a so-called “consultation” on a further referendum in Scotland. I have responded to question 1 of the “consultation” as follows:

    “This is not a genuine consultation. At no point in the consultation document is there an option to say whether or not I wish the government to hold a referendum on separation from the rest of the UK. I also note that a reason for holding this consultation begins “Given Scotland’s strong and unequivocal vote to remain in the EU…”

    “I am a citizen of Scotland and the UK. The EU referendum was about whether or not the UK should remain in the EU, not about whether or not a part of the UK should remain in the EU. I voted for the UK to remain in the EU, but unlike the Scottish government apparently, I accept that a democratic decision has been made, and now has to be respected. I do not believe the Scottish government should be using taxpayers’ funds to hold this consultation exercise, let alone hold another referendum, in an attempt to undermine a democratic decision made by the people of the UK.”

    I have responded “None ” to the other four questions.

    Since genuine consultation requires a willingness to listen to all views, I am disappointed by the Scottish Government’s approach. However, you are our representative in the UK parliament, and I would welcome your views – assuming you are allowed to hold them – on:

    1. the response of the Scottish government to the Brexit vote
    2.the approach the Scottish government has taken in this so-called consultation exercise
    3. the use of taxpayers’ money to fund another attempt to break up the UK

    I note that you do not have a particularly high response rate to constituents’ questions, so I do not believe you are likely to do me the courtesy of replying. Please disappoint me.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. The Scottish Government has hijacked my “Remain” vote in the UK referendum as a reason to hold another Scottish referendum. WHY ? I was well aware the UK was to hold a referendum when I voted NO in the Scottish 2014 referendum. They have no mandate to use my vote against me because they seek to manipulate for a 2nd Scottish referendum. This is an affront to the democratic process that the SNP will not accept the decision of the Scottish or UK referendums.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I am thinking of a reply to each question on the lines of:
    It was stated unequivocally by the proponents of independence in the 2014 campaign referendum that it was a ‘once in a generation’ event. The then First Minister defined once in a generation as being 17 or 18 years. He cited the time between the two Scottish devolution referendums and the second of them and the independence referendum as justification for what his opponents thought was a rather short period to be called a generations. Given this, I see no reason to waste government time that should be spent on actually running Scotland on this issue until 2028-29.
    The claim that the UK’s vote to leave the EU justifies reneging on this promise is false as the Euro referendum was a known risk at the time of the Scottish one. The Scottish government’s 2013 White Paper setting out the case for independence stated that:
    ‘If we remain in the UK, the Conservative Party’s promise of an in/out referendum on EU membership raises the serious possibility that Scotland will be forced to leave the EU against
    the wishes of the people of Scotland.’ (p. 60 by the printed page numbers, p. 80 by the numbering of the PDF linked below)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. An interesting aside here is that all Civil Servants have been reminded that they may take part in this consultation, however, they must only do so under the limitations of “The Civil Service Code” meaning that they may not answer against the desires/opinions of the Scottish Government, Some consultation.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. A lot of verbal promises were made by both sides and I know which I feel was the greater betrayal. The some reality is yes parties have a majority in parliament and were elected on manifestos pledging another referendum on a material change in circumstances which there has been.

    Now I would have also have liked a vote on the Smith Commission and its failure to deliver what was said by Brown et all during the campaign. I don’t think you can have it all your own way. If you feel so passionately that your argument is the correct one then you have nothing to fear.


  7. The SNP manifesto said that there should be another independence referendum if Scotland voted to remain in the EU but the UK voted to leave. It does not, however, have a majority at Holyrood. The SNP and Greens do have a majority, but the Green’s website states that:

    ‘The Scottish Green Party, which is committed to making popular democracy a reality at the national, regional and local level, believes that there should in time be a second referendum on Scottish independence
    ‘In that referendum the Scottish Greens will campaign for independence to secure the powers needed for a socially just and sustainable Scotland.
    The timing of the referendum should be determined by public appetite: Scotland should decide, when Scotland wants to decide.
    In assessing public appetite for a second referendum we will respect new kinds of citizen-led initiatives – for example, a call for a referendum signed by up to 1 million people on the electoral register.’

    I cannot see how a majority of just over 640,000 on a vote on a different issue can be taken as showing a ‘public appetite’ for another independence referendum and thus contend that the Greens do not currently have a mandate to support the holding of a such a vote. They do clearly have a mandate to campaign in favour of a Yes vote should one be held, but that is not the same thing as supporting holding it.

    I expect that a further independence referendum would produce a very similar result to the first one. My objection is to the Scottish Government devoting so much of its efforts to planning and agitating for one rather than running the country.


    • It seems that the Greens are going to support a second independence referendum. I do not agree with them on many issues, but did think that they are a principled party. It now seems that they are so keen on independence that they will back another referendum without any concessions on other issues. This is in support of the SNP, much of whose economic case for independence is based on oil.
      I wonder what people who back the Greens on environmental grounds but oppose independence think? At the 2015 Scottish Election the votes for parties supporting independence were:
      Constituency: SNP 46.5%; Green 0.6%; others 0.0% (RISE & Solidarity did not put up candidates and the Libertarian vote was statistically insignificant); total 47.1%
      List: SNP 41.7%; Green 6.6%; others 1.2%; total 49.5%.
      I cannot understand why any supporter of independence would give either of their votes to a party that opposes independence. I can, however, see that anti-independence environmentalists in a constituency without a Green candidate might vote Labour or Liberal in the constituency.
      It therefore seems likely that up to 3.0% (0.6% constituency vote plus 2.4% extra list votes for pro-independence parties) of the 6.6% who voted Green on the list oppose independence. The leadership of the Scottish Greens does not appear to consider the views of this substantial minority of its support when apparently putting independence above all other considerations.


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