4 Conclusion |
61. Widening the number of options to be put in front
of the voters in a referendum may at first sight be an attractive
proposition: but it suffers from a number of fatal defects. Leaving
aside the charges of political opportunism which can quite fairly
be laid against the Scottish Government in pursuing this option,
the evidence we heard shows very clearly the challenges and defects
of the notion.
62. The Scottish Government does not have a mandate
to hold a referendum on greater devolution. What it promised was
a referendum on separation, and we agree they should be enabled
to hold that. It is for those political parties and organisations
which genuinely support devolution to make proposals for developing
it, and propose how put those plans before the electorate.
63. It is perfectly clear that there are, at present,
no developed plans for further devolution. In particular, the
idea of "devolution max" is no more than a phrase in
search of content. No plans exist, and none are in prospect which
could properly be put forward to the voters in any referendum.
64. A referendum is a way in which the voters
make a decision, or a choice. It is entirely appropriate to deal
with the question of separation. But changing the devolution settlement
is a different kind of choice. A referendum could only deal with
the question of more powers if there were a proposal, and if the
voters could be assured that, were they to support it, it would
be put into effect. That means such a proposal has to be developed
and broadly agreed in advance in the UK and the Scottish governments
and then. No such proposal exists, and none is being developed.
65. There are very serious unanswered questions
about how a three-option referendum would work. There are a number
of potential ways in which the results could be calculated and
aggregated, and it is deeply disturbing to discover that the choice
of voting and counting mechanism could well determine the outcome.
That is not acceptable. The outcome should be determined by the
choices of voters - it should be clear to them what the consequences
of their decision will be. It is probably for this reason that
multi-option referendums are very uncommon internationally, on
national issues of this sort. International experience strongly
suggests that they are inappropriate because they do not lead
to effective decisions. That would be true for Scotland.