The general principles of the Scottish Independence Referendum (Franchise) Bill have been endorsed by a leading parliamentary committee.
The Bill sets out who is entitled to vote in next year’s referendum, and includes provisions to enable 16 and 17 year olds to vote.
The stage 1 report published today from the Referendum Bill Committee includes the following findings:
- the committee agrees that the local government register is the appropriate basis for the franchise for over-18s;
- the majority of the committee endorses the extension of the franchise for the referendum to include 16 and 17 year olds, which the Scottish Government says will add an extra 120,000 people to the franchise;
- the committee is content with the Scottish Government’s proposed franchise in respect of all service personnel - what matters now, says the committee, is effective joint working between the Electoral Commission, Electoral Registration Officers and the Ministry of Defence;
- the majority view of the committee supports the Scottish Government’s position that all convicted prisoners should be ineligible to vote in the referendum;
- the Committee is generally content with arrangements in the bill for creating and maintaining a separate “register of young voters”
- the committee agrees the need for a co-ordinated approach to awareness-raising, based on clear guidance, that maintains political impartiality. It also agrees that the Electoral Commission has a central role to play in this process, working collaboratively with many other organisations; the committee is not persuaded that bodies other than the Electoral Commission need a duty in law to encourage participation; and
- in terms of raising awareness among younger voters in schools, the committee is confident that those involved at local level, including Electoral Registration Officers and teachers, already understand what is required and are experienced in engaging young people in issues of citizenship in an appropriate and non-partisan way.
Referendum Bill Committee Convener Bruce Crawford MSP said:
“The Franchise Bill sets out who will be entitled to vote in the referendum and also how people, especially 16 and 17 year olds, will be registered in advance of the referendum.
“This committee has scrutinised the Scottish Government’s Bill closely to ensure that Parliament, and the people of Scotland, can have confidence in the franchise arrangements.
“Our committee recommends to the Parliament that the general principles of the Scottish Independence Referendum (Franchise) Bill be agreed to.”
The full Parliament is expected to debate Stage 1 of the Bill on 14 May 2013.
The stage 1 report from the Referendum Bill Committee can be found on its webpages at: