MAJOR civic organisations have not participated in Nicola Sturgeon’s consultation on the Draft Referendum Bill prompting concerns there may be a disappointing response from the sector.
Independence supporting think tank, the Common Weal, as well as the Electoral Reform Society and the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, which all back opening up the democratic process and promoting social engagement, did not get involved.
The Scottish Trades Union Congress, and the trade union Unison, also did not respond.
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Ben Wray, head of policy at the Common Weal, said his organisation did not take part as there was a sense it was “about politics” and not substance.
“To be honest I haven’t had any sense of what the consultation was going to achieve and what difference it would make to the direction of travel,” he said. “I don’t know really what they are consulting for and what they are looking to get out of it, so it wasn’t on our agenda. Let’s get the bill passed. [The consultation] seemed all about politics.”
Willie Sullivan, Scottish director of the Electoral Reform Society, gave a similar explanation.
“The consultation seemed too detached from the actual referendum day,” he said.
“When a referendum is called we think there should be another consultation on any referendum bill that is brought forward.
“The current exercise has been low profile. It’s been overshadowed by lots of other things and hasn’t really got a lot of focus.”
John Downie, director of public affairs at the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, added: “For us the consultation was more of a technical process so we didn’t respond to it. We had really nothing to say as this was a technical bill about the process.”
A spokesman for the STUC said: “We did not respond. It was a very technical consultation and we had addressed any issues in the last consultation ahead of the last independence referendum.”
The consultation on the draft Referendum Bill was launched in October and closed yesterday.
Ministers said it was being published should they conclude seeking the views of people on independence was the best or only way to protect Scotland’s interests following the EU referendum.
The Scottish Government said: “In the 2014 referendum the question was: ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’ The paper proposes the same referendum question be used again or it could change following the consultation.”