The British Armed Forces Federation (BAFF) will be responding to the UK Government's consultation paper on how a "legal, fair and decisive" referendum is to be conducted.
Responses to that paper are due to the Scotland Office (a UK Government Department) by 9th March, 2012.
Similarly, BAFF is likely to respond to the SNP Government's own consultation paper which it intends to publish later this month. UPDATE: We are now starting to add our comments below as an indication of our likely responses to the consultations, subject to any further views received from BAFF Full Members or Supporters.
As set out in the ground-breaking paper Silence in the Ranks which was produced at the time of the 2005 General Election, we encourage maximum electoral participation by members of the armed forces community, making their own voting choices.
The questions raised in the UK Government's consultation paper are about facilitating and organising the referendum.There is no need to respond to all questions.
One question which is clearly relevant to service voters (regardless of their individual choices in a referendum) is question 6 - What are your views on which people should be entitled to vote in a Scottish referendum?
The questions posed in the consultation paper are:
SUMMARY OF CONSULTATION QUESTIONS
A legal referendum
1. What are your views on using the order making power provided in the Scotland Act 1998 to allow the Scottish Parliament to legislate for a legal referendum in an Act of the Scottish Parliament?
2. What are your views on the UK Parliament legislating to deliver a referendum on independence?
3. What are your views on whether the Scotland Bill should be used either to:
i) give the Scottish Parliament the power to legislate for a referendum; or ii) directly deliver a referendum?
A fair referendum
4. What are your views on the oversight arrangements for a referendum on Scottish independence?
5. Do you think the Electoral Commission should have a role in overseeing a referendum on Scottish independence? BAFF comment: The Electoral Commission, which has an office in Edinburgh, has considerable hard-earned knowledge of service voting issues and, as an independent body which is not part of the UK Government, has since the 2005 General Election liaised satisfactorily with the service voting stakeholders including BAFF. The Commission has long had an office in Edinburgh and we see no good reason to incur unnecessary extra cost, throw away experience and expertise, and try to reinvent the wheel. Given the genuinely independent way in which the Commission operates albeit it is necessarily accountable to the Westminster parliament, any special accountability issues relating to the Scotland referendum can be resolved.
6. What are your views on which people should be entitled to vote in a Scottish independence referendum?
A decisive referendum
7. What are your views on the timing of a referendum?
8. What are your views on the question or questions to be asked in a referendum?
The draft section 30 Order
9. What are your views on the draft section 30 Order? [BAFF comment: This draft Order mentions who would be entitled to vote in the Referendum see Question 6 above - more to follow on this point.]
- Scotland Office: - A referendum on Scotland's constitutional future: a consultation on facilitating a legal, fair and decisive referendum on whether Scotland should leave the United Kingdom (Includes link to consultation paper - PDF - 23 pages)
- Scottish Government news release 10/01/12 - Independence referendum plans
- NEW: Scottish referendum - Which service voters should be able to take part?
- BAFF, 'ARRSE', the 2005 Service Voting Campaign, and 'Silence in the Ranks'