By a Newsnet reporter

The Scottish Government has revealed that it received more than 26,000 responses to its public consultation on the independence referendum.  

The figure exceeds the estimate of 21,000 responses given in May this year by the Scottish Government at the end of the four month consultation period.  Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon hailed the figures as "a fantastic response from the people of Scotland".

Full details of the responses are yet to be published, but over 160 organisations, including the Scottish Trades Union Congress, the Electoral Commission, the National Union of Students and the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, have submitted responses to the historic consultation.

Earlier this year the anti-independence parties at Westminster also held a public consultation on the Scottish independence referendum.  The two month long consultation attracted fewer than 3,000 responses. 

The results of the Westminster led consultation were strongly critcised by First Minister Alex Salmond after it came to light that over 25% of the replies were identical responses from a Labour website.

Mr Salmond said: "If you have a consultation exercise which is so puny and tiny it can get flooded by multiple responses or identical responses from the same website, it discredits it completely."

Responses to the Scottish government's consultation are currently being verified by an independent organisation, a key difference between both consultations.  Earlier this year the Scottish Labour party boasted of having made bogus submissions in the name of cartoon characters such as Donald Duck - such submissions will be rooted out.

A key issue in the Scottish Government's consultation was whether voters should be given a choice between a simple yes or no to independence, or whether there should also be an additional question asking voters if they were in favour of increased powers for Holyrood - so-called "Devo Max".

Although First Minister Alex Salmond has already said his preferred question for the referendum is: "Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?", when the consultation was launched the First Minister said that if the consultation showed there was widespread support for devo-max, then it would be "only fair and democratic" to include it on the ballot paper.

The Scottish Government has said that it will make a decision on the issue of a "devo max question" based on the results of the analysis of consultation responses.  The full analysis is expected to be published in early autumn.

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: "This is a fantastic response from the people of Scotland, with more than 26,000 contributions to the consultation - over 10 times the number that responded to the UK government's consultation on the same issue.

"This positive level of response sends a clear signal that the people of Scotland believe the Scottish Parliament is the place to decide the terms and timing of the referendum - and that these should not be imposed by Westminster.

"The responses from organisations already been made public show a lively debate around issues such as whether there should be a second question on the ballot paper.

"They also show support for votes for 16 and 17-year-olds. We set out our preferred question in the consultation document but have always said we would listen to the view expressed in the responses we received."

Last week, Head of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) called for the views of the people to be heard and insisted that any second option on the ballot paper could not be excluded.

John Downie, The Director of Public Affairs in the SCVO, questioned the anti-independence parties tactics after an attempt was made by them to hi-jack the referendum process.  Mr Downie wrote that it was "yet another attempt to narrow the debate about our future"

The criticism followed a bid by Unionist parties to force consideration of their own preferred ballot paper question.  The move was rejected by the Electoral Commission who said the formation of a question was for the "relevant Government" to carry out.


# Legerwood 2012-07-15 07:49
Responses to the Scottish government's consultation are currently being verified by an independent organisation, a key difference between both consultations

And who exactly is this independent organisation? You have been remarkably coy about naming it. A rather glaring omission.

It would appear that not everyone is in thrall to the second question option.
# Jimmy The Pict 2012-07-15 08:28
The SNP position has been clear on this for a long time, they are not ruling out a second question, but they are not the group who are going to define or ask for the second question.

This is a fair and mature position to take early in the referendum process.

If there is a large number of responses to the consultation that indicate a desire for some change short of full independence, then this should be considered. The requirements to be on the ballot should include a guarantee from Westminster that the powers would be delivered by a specific date, otherwise you are voting for a promise. This could be the stumbling block. Westminster could either say no to what the second question promises, or say it would need a referendum in the whole of the UK.
It would appear that none of the unionist parties want to go down this route, only a vague promise of more powers if you vote no in a single question referendum in 2014.

To sum up:

SNP position, single question indy/status quo, open to others coming up with second question
Unionist Parties - single question, no would mean some promised powers, some time in the future.
Greens - currently would like multi-option, will ask members next conference whether to switch to single one.
Scottish public response - not published yet, but polls indicate 75% might want more than now.
Scottish Independence Campaign - full independence.
# xyz 2012-07-15 16:19
If the majority want devo max then that should be reflected in the consultation..

... but then the consultation is not a referendum, it's not ~all~ about numbers or percentages, notwithstanding the abject failure of the Westminster consultation in respect of the total number of respondents. How did that happen? I thought even the Liebour party could have drummed up more than 3000 brain dead zombies, and even some real people too.

In my response I said I would support the inclusion of a Devo option only if its definition was clear, but I think that's impossible as London won't contemplate losing power or subsidy.
# Jamieson 2012-07-15 20:53
This interview given by David Hayman deserves much wider circulation:
# Marga B 2012-07-15 21:15
Nice interview, great quotes, like "we don't inherit the world from our fathers, we borrow it from our children".
# tilly 2012-07-16 10:25
I agree an excellent interview. David Hayman sounds like a very decent man.
# ramstam 2012-07-15 21:05
The SNP have long indicated they will campaign in 2014 for a YES to an independent Scottish State. As the Unionists are opposed to a second question it's becoming obvious that their wont be any real campaign for Devo plus/max. The 37% poll rating will likely fall drastically with more switching to a YES than to the status quo. The stushie over whether or not to have the extra question has flushed out the Unionists and exposed them for the last-ditch Unionists that they are. If Scotland voted NO in 2014 we would get no added powers. London rule would be our fate for the next 20 years at least. Be warned and vote YES!
# Jim Johnston 2012-07-16 10:04
You make a fair assessment here ramstan.

It looks like the SG consultation has been very successful in flushing out the Unionist proposition of "Jam tomorrow".

The next step should be to set a deadline for a clear and decisive second question from those advocating it. It certainly wont be the SNP who will define it. If a second question dies a death, the SNP will rightly claim they democratically left the door open and no one walked through it.

The second major point which will be clarified is 16 & 17 year olds having a right to vote on their future. I believe they should, the future is theirs.

All this non debate so far has shown is that neither side is likely to show their full hand at such an early stage. Only when this early nonsense is out of the way and people have hard facts to consider, (as the SG White Paper will provide), are we likely to see a clearer picture than these phoney polls to date throw up.

I'm no fortune teller, but I believe there will only be one question as set out by the SG, 16 & 17 year olds will get the vote they deserve, peoples lives will be in a worse state the closer we get to Autumn 2014 and a better future will be there to shape as an Independent Scotland.

I'll be voting for a better future.
# Galen10 2012-07-16 11:02
Whilst I hope the result in 2014 is "yes", and see the need not to be too diverted by "whatiffery", I'm not so sure your alternative future is bound to happen.

If the vote in 2014 is "no", it seems to me just as likely that FFA/devo-max will then come to the fore. The SNP may be damaged in the short term certainly, but the Unionist parties should be held to account to come up with their alternative plans quickly, and to explain how they are going to push them through Westminster.

If they don't (or can't?) do this, it will bite them in the rear, because people will increasingly decide to vote for a party which will deliver an alternative to the status quo.... and if Labour can't do it, they may well find SNP support at Holyrood and Westminster increasing post 2014.

Whilst I sometimes think pro-independence people are being too positive about the eventual result in 2014, I also think they meay be prone to being too negative about the prospects post 2014 if the vote goes against them. By all means eveyone should fight hard for a yes vote... but let's not assume that everything is lost if it doesn't go our way.
# Jim Johnston 2012-07-16 13:03
Hi Glean10,
Yes I do agree it's not the end of the world if the status quo carry the referendum, and the future will be just as uncertain, or more so, for everyone in that circumstance as it will be with Independence. The difference of course is that Westminster will call all the shots, not Holyrood.

What bothers me is how long it will take to get real power wrung out of Westminster in the event of a No vote. The Union will be in absolutely no hurry to devolve any further powers at all.

We know for a certainty how long it took to get Devolution following a "yes" majority in 1979, and the damage done to Scotland in the interim. I do fear it will be no different next time round. That is why proposals for Devo anything must come now from the powers who will control Scotland in the event of a No vote. "Jam tomorrow" is a fools belief in the very Union who refuse to make any definitive commitments of additional devolved powers to enable Scots to work for and make our future Scotland better
# Dundonian West 2012-07-16 13:19
IF the UK government was 'minded' to bestow substantial powers to Scotland,I cannot imagine a Geordie,Scouser or Home Countie's MP walking through the YES lobby----even with a three line whip.
We REALLY have to do it ourselves in 2014.
# Galen10 2012-07-16 13:55
I agree, and think that this is the huge problem the Unionist parties (both in Scotland and more widely in the UK) have; only Westminster can deliver or bestow FFA or devo-max/plus/super/mebbe, but as you say there is no guarantee they will be able to push it through in the face of indifference or hostility from English MP's.

That's the reason why I think that a "no" vote in 2014, whilst desperatrely disappointing, need not be the disaster many seem to think. If it becomes clear that the Westminster parties simply can't deliver, then they won't have the luxury of waiting 20 years like they did after 1979, because people will be able to hold them to account by voting for parties committed to bringing about change.... and if that isn't Labour or the LD's ('cos it sure as hell isn't going to be the Tories), it will either mean windfall gains for the SNP at both Holyrood and Westminster elections, or possibly the growth of "other" parties which specifically call for implementation of FFA short of independence.

I know it is all fairly speculative, but in that kind of situation, my money would be on people simply returning the SNP with increased majorities; the question then would be what happens if the SNP end up with a lot more Westminster MP's, continued majorities in Holyrood, and a mandate to bring about FFA?

I honestly can't see the Unionist parties being able to come up with an agreed FFA plan, so it might be up to the SNP in Holyrood to pose the question in short order; nobody can pretend the status quo is acceptable, so if the vote in 2014 IS "no", it would be uncharacteristi cally brave of the Unionist parties to try and stop a referendum on FFA. Not ideal perhaps, but a good springboard for the real thing within a reasonable timescale.
# Dundonian West 2012-07-16 14:05
Thanks for that. I really can't fault your summation----meanwhile let us hope and work for a YES in 2014.
# ituna semea 2012-07-16 09:11
So roughly 0.55% of those able to vote participated in this exercise, hardly the "fantastic" response from the people of Scotland that Ms Sturgeon predictably spins.
# scottish_skier 2012-07-16 09:18
What is the % figure for the Westminster consultation?

Just for comparative purposes.

Also, I think your calculator is broken. 26,000 / 3,982,000 * 100 = 0.65%.

Note that Westminster consider 0.2% of the electorate signing a petition as making it worthy of parliamentary consideration. Its own consultation on the referendum managed just 0.08%, hence is not worthy of consideration by Westminster rules on public participation in policy development.
# Mei 2012-07-16 09:23
And what percentage of the Westminster consultation were the 700 + identical responses from a Labour party website?
# Jake62 2012-07-16 09:27
Seems a pretty high response rate to me, especially when you consider that many were responses from organisations representing thousands of members.

You seem disappointed, but bear in mind this was a survey not a vote, and it was still more than 8 time the response rate from the Westminster survey.
# ituna semea 2012-07-16 18:02
The referendum consultation here was being run by the Scottish Government with much ballyhoo, not Westminster . The paltry number of returns on the Westminster consultation is no justification for the apathy exhibited by the people of Scotland being designated as "fantastic" by Ms Sturgeon.
Who are these organisations "representing" thousands of members? Is this the nebulous "Civic Scotland" of Mr
Salmond's fertile imagination?
# scottish_skier 2012-07-16 19:47
277,000 people in Scotland voted Tory in 2011. Clearly Tories are very apathetic.
# Galen10 2012-07-16 14:35
So what? People won't decide how to vote in 2014 on the basis of this consultation, or any other such exercise. Their decision will be based on a wide variety of factors; economic, social, political, historical, emotional, whimsical. All of these will be coloured by events over the next 24 months.

There are plenty of other platforms and forums for consultations, debate and analysis of the issues; naturally ALL the political parties will put their own particular spin on these..... you'd have to be pretty naive to expect anything different, and if you think the SNP or Ms Sturgeon are uniquely guilty, then I have some magic beans and a few bridges you might be interested in.

You don't have to be a cybernat to agree that this consultation (limited as it might be) beats the UK government one into a cocked hat.

The consultation that counts is in 2014, and even if the vote then is "no", the Unionist parties are going to have to come up with something a hell of a lot more convincing than "jam tomorrow.... but we're not telling you what kind of jam, or how much..." if they expect people not to punish them at the next available consultation for Holyrood or Westminster.
# John Lyons 2012-07-17 11:55
Well...Westminster 3,000, Holyrood 26,000. I wonder why...

I suppose the 3000 probably felt impassioned enough to complete both, so why did the 23000 others not?

The Holyrood Consultation was open for longer than the Westminster one, but hardly ten times as long.

Maybe, because the Referendum will not be run by Westmister, the 22,000 realised telling Westminster what you think means little...(Not that it stopped me taking the opportunity to tell them what I think of them!)

Maybe more Scots completed the Holyrood consultation, and we've seen recent indicators that the vast majority trust them but not Westminster.

Or Maybe 23,000 of them are from Donald Duck via a Labour Website. That's actually pretty believable. Labour are stronger on opposing the SNP than coming up with their own policies, so why not the same for the Consultations...

As for Spin, what did you expect her to say? "It's been a bit crap."?

I cn't be bothered, but mybe someone out there can tell us the kind of response Public consultations by the Government usually get. I suppose that would indicate if this is a good response or not....
# scottish_skier 2012-07-17 14:45
Westminster require 0.22% (100,000) of the UK electorate to sign a petition before they consider it important enough to potentially raise the issue in parlaiment.

0.65% of the Scottish electorate responded to the Scottish Governments Consultation; 3 times that required for a Westminster petition to be considered. In contrast, only 0.08% of the Scottish electorate responded to the Westminster consultation; much less than that required for it to be considered worthy of parliamentary discussion.
# Galen10 2012-07-17 17:45
The figure of 100,000 is far too low for a country the size of the UK anyway; places with more experience of direct or participative democracy like Switzerland (which has a population of just less than 8 million) stipulate 50,000 signatures to force a vote on a new law or treaty, and 100,000 if they want to propose new legislation.

In a referendum in June 2012, 72.5% of Swiss voters (and every canton) voted against extending the use of such referenda, of which there are usually about 6 nationally every year, as well as cantonal ones.
# scottish_skier 2012-07-17 19:13
Of course I was just playing with numbers.

Direct democracy is good, but only in small doses lest the majority persecute the minority. That's why we have representative democracy; the representation acting as a buffer.

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