Page last updated at 17:31 GMT, Wednesday, 2 November 2011

MPs question electoral experts on Scottish independence referendum

The Electoral Commission gave evidence to the Scottish Affairs Committee on 2 November 2011 on the mechanics of any referendum on independence.

Evidence was taken from the Electoral Commissioner for Scotland John McCormick, and Andy O'Neill and Andrew Scallan from The Electoral Commission.

The referendum in Scotland is due in or before 2015 and would ask whether voters wanted Scottish independence, or so-called "devolution-max", with more powers devolved to Holyrood but stopping short of full separation.

Committee chair Ian Davidson asked what kind of notice period the Electoral Commission would need to oversee a referendum.

Mr McCormick replied that "it's a matter for Parliament", but said his organisation "expected" around six months notice on the exact detail of a poll.

Questions were also put on the running of elections in Scotland in general, with Labour MP Jim McGovern questioning the practice of adding "Alex Salmond for First Minister" beside candidate names on ballot papers.

Mr O'Neill said it was perfectly legal, adding that the rules relating to how parties can describe themselves on ballot papers was set by the Westminster Parliament in 2009.

Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond and the SNP have opposed the inquiry by the committee, saying that the mechanics of the referendum is not a matter for Westminster.

The party's sole SNP member of the committee, Eilidh Whiteford, who recently alleged that the committee chair had made "inappropriate" comments to her in a private committee session, was absent from the hearing.

Scottish affairs committee membership


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