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AGM endorses BAFF plan for Scottish Independence Referendum-related issues

The British Armed Forces Federation AGM on 28 September 2013 endorsed the Federation's published plan for its considered neutral/impartial approach to the 18 Sep 2014 Referendum on Scotland's constitutional future.

Totally impartial

The key element of the plan is that BAFF has decided to remain totally impartial on the independence issue, as with any other public vote, even though a 'Yes' vote would have obvious major implications for BAFF itself and for BAFF members.

Instead of taking sides, we encourage those of our members who are eligible to REGISTER and then (making their own voting choice) to USE THEIR VOTE in the Referendum on 18 September, 2014.

Service Voter Campaign

The electoral part of the plan reflects the Federation's leading position on the issue of voter participation by armed forces personnel. The foundation of BAFF was partly inspired by the impartial Service Voter Campaign of 2005, and the Federation has a proven track record of active impartiality in the 2010 General Election and other votes.

We have been working hard from the start on electoral participation issues. BAFF submitted detailed responses to the respective consultations by the UK Government's Scotland Office and by the Scottish Government about technical issues in connection with the referendum. In fact, the Scotland Office quoted us in their own summary of the consultation: BAFF supported their position on the involvement of the Electoral Commission.

So a side-benefit of our consultation response was that it got us some attention from UK Government, politicians and media at a time when our profile was possibly lower than usual.

But we realised that in addition to electoral participation issues, other questions were likely to arise which BAFF could hardly ignore during the referendum campaign - and afterwards, paticularly in the event of a 'Yes' vote.

'Neither disloyal, nor unpatriotic'

For one thing, the plan commits us to discourage divisiveness - including divisiveness between those entitled to vote, and the majority which has no vote in this referendum. The plan also makes the vital point that "A personal decision to vote either way in a lawful, properly authorised constitutional referendum can be neither disloyal, nor unpatriotic."

Official representation for Scottish Defence Force personnel

There is also the question of official representation for the personnel of a possible Scottish Defence Force. It remains of course a hypothetical question unless the vote next September 18 goes for 'Yes', but BAFF is in no position to remain completely aloof from such issues.

We would expect those working on a possible Scottish Defence Force to look to other countries for comparisons, so we do not expect to be their only source of information on how representation works successfully in many other countries.

But we are always ready to answer questions from any democratic political party, including the pro-independence parties. As our Plan states, BAFF is thereby neither taking sides in the referendum debate, nor anticipating any particular outcome.

Thus we welcome the news that the Scottish National Party at their Autumn Conference in Perth are due to consider a motion which covers various personnel issues, including "Official representation of service personnel". The motion is signed by Angus Robertson MP, co-signed by Keith Brown MSP and is, we understand, due to be debated on the afternoon of Friday, 18 October.

If Conference decides to support 'Representation', we hope that the Scottish National Party, as a Westminster parliamentary party in the present UK, will join the (unionist) Liberal Democrats - and Plaid Cymru - in supporting the right of representation for UK armed forces personnel.

Risks

BAFF recognises that there are risks in a proactive approach, including the risk of attempts to conflate the Representation issue with that of Scottish Independence. That is why we have adopted, and have now endorsed at last weekend's AGM, the BAFF Ten Point Plan for the Scottish independence referendum.

Representation, Armed Forces Federation, Armed forces voters - Service voters, Scotland

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