To be published as HC 1 39- x ii

House of COMMONS



Scottish Affairs Committee




Evidence heard in Public Questions 1751 - 1886



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Oral Evidence

Taken before the Scottish Affairs Committee

on Tuesday 20 November 2012

Members present:

Mr Ian Davidson (Chair)

Mike Crockart

Jim McGovern

Pamela Nash

Lindsay Roy


Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: Blair Jenkins, Chief Executive, Yes Scotland campaign, and Blair McDougall, Campaign Director, Better Together campaign, gave evidence.

Q1751Chair: Gentlemen, thank you very much for coming along to this meeting of the Scottish Affairs Committee. As you know, we have been conducting a series of hearings about the separation referendum and looking at some issues to do with process and content. Today, we want to concentrate with you upon issues relating to process, because I suspect that we wouldn’t find much of a meeting of minds were we to discuss the actual merits of the case. I don’t know whether this is the first time you have been on a platform together.

Blair McDougall: No. NUS Scotland-we were together there.

Q1752Chair: I am sure you will be sick of the sight of each other by the end of this. First, could I ask you to introduce yourselves and explain what your position is, starting with BJ?

Blair Jenkins: I am Blair Jenkins, chief executive of the Yes Scotland campaign.

Blair McDougall: I am Blair McDougall, campaign director of Better Together.

Q1753Chair: The Committee is of the view, as is this Parliament, that we want a referendum that is clear, fair and decisive. Do you have any comments at the very beginning about how you believe this can best be achieved, perhaps starting with BJ?

Blair Jenkins: I want to say right away that very good progress has been made already. The Edinburgh agreement between the two Governments has laid the foundations for what should be a very good and, I hope, well conducted referendum campaign. I am very firmly of the view, as is everyone associated with Yes Scotland, that this should be a positive campaign and that all parties should engage with and treat each other with courtesy, respect and professionalism. I think the way has been laid clear for that to happen. We have a very clear process, at least the signs of a definite date for the referendum and the prospect of an excellent campaign over the next two years.

Blair McDougall: I would agree with all of that. I think people wanted the two Governments to work together to come to an agreement on this in a mature way. They did and that was welcome. We are now in a situation where we have to move on from that to ensure -I think you are right-that the rules are fair and transparent but also that they are set in a way that enables a full debate over the course of the next two years and also during the regulated period. That will be about ensuring a fair playing field but also one that allows for proper free speech and proper exchange of ideas.

Q1754Lindsay Roy: First, can I ask you for your views on the credibility of the Electoral Commission given its track record on impartiality, fairness and integrity? Could you just sum up your view of the Electoral Commission in these terms?

Blair Jenkins: I have no reason to differ from what you have just said. As far as I am aware, the Electoral Commission is a body of great credibility and authority. I have had a preliminary meeting with some of the officials, which went very well. I happen to know personally the commissioner in Scotland, John McCormick. He is a former colleague from BBC days and a man for whom I have a great deal of respect. The Electoral Commission seems to be a thoroughly professional and well-run body.

Q1755Chair: Do you have any reservations about the Electoral Commission being involved in this?

Blair Jenkins: None.

Blair McDougall: I have been involved in politics for the entire duration of the Electoral Commission’s existence. People and political parties complain sometimes about the Electoral Commission, but the truth is that they are the best source of expert opinion and advice on electoral matters. If we didn’t have them, we would have to invent them.

Q1756Chair: To put the same question, do you have any reservations about them?

Blair McDougall: None at all.

Q1757Lindsay Roy: So you are happy with their role rather than a specially selected Scottish commission?

Blair Jenkins: I think that that part of the agreement that was reached and the role that the Electoral Commission has been allocated seems to be thoroughly sensible.

Q1758Lindsay Roy: As leaders of your respective campaigns, will you be content to accept all the Electoral Commission’s rulings and follow their advice?

Blair McDougall: Yes, absolutely. We are involved in a process of consultation and engagement with them at the moment where we will put our arguments very forcefully about what the playing field should look like, but when that is done we have to accept what they come forward with.

Blair Jenkins: I would be very surprised if the Electoral Commission came back with anything with which I would fundamentally disagree.

Q1759Chair: That is not the same point as asking whether or not you would accept their rulings.

Blair Jenkins: I would expect the advice of the Electoral Commission to be something that all parties found acceptable. I would not have any doubt that they will come back with thoroughly well-tested and well-presented recommendations.

Q1760Chair: That is not the same as saying, as Mr McDougall did, that you would accept their advice. Saying that you expect them to come back with things you will agree with is not quite the same as saying you would accept what they come forward with, even if you disagree with it.

Blair Jenkins: I imagine there is a reason why their role is advisory rather than their having a mandatory or compulsory overview for Governments to accept. There is always room left to disagree, but, as I say, I would be extremely surprised if there was anything the Electoral Commission came back with that I would disagree with.

Q1761Chair: This does seem to be a distinction between you. What are the circumstances in which you believe you might disagree with the rulings of the Electoral Commission and, presumably, advise against accepting them?

Blair Jenkins: I cannot imagine those circumstances. I am sure they will do a thoroughly professional job and come back with very thoroughly tested and very good recommendations. I was just making the distinction-I do not think it is an academic one-that it is advice on the issues rather than a ruling, isn’t it?

Chair: That is absolutely correct.

Blair Jenkins: I am just making that distinction.

Chair: The UK Government have established that they will take advice. The people who are elected have the final responsibility to take the decision, but in the past they have always accepted rulings of the Electoral Commission, even when, particularly in the case of the present Government, they didn’t like them. I just wanted to be clear if that was the position of both of you, and, as I understand, it is.

Q1762Lindsay Roy: Just to be clear, on the acceptance of the proposed wording of the question, that would also be the case.

Blair Jenkins: I would be very surprised if, in the next six months, the Electoral Commission came back with something that was not an extremely well-presented argument. For instance, on the point you are addressing, if they proposed a change in the suggested question, I am sure they would do it in such a way that they could say they had thoroughly tested it and on examination they were recommending a change. If you are asking me to predict-I don’t mind doing that-I would be very surprised if the Electoral Commission made any substantive or substantial change to the proposed question. If they suggested that, I am sure it would be based on a very honest and professional assessment, and they would make their reasons for that very plain.

Q1763Lindsay Roy: Do you think the Scottish Government should be bound by it?

Blair Jenkins: In the court of public opinion, if the Electoral Commission come back with a really well-presented argument for why there ought to be any change to that suggested question, it would be difficult for anyone to say that that ought not to be paid attention to. I imagine the reason that their role is worded and presented in the way it is is that no one would wish to give them an absolutely blank cheque so that whatever they came back with was to be unequivocally accepted. I would be surprised by two things: first, if they made any substantive change to the question; and, secondly, if they put a well-presented case for why there should be a change, it did not find general acceptance.

Q1764Lindsay Roy: Blair, what is your view?

Blair McDougall: There is a sense that has crept into the debate in Scotland that somehow the question doesn’t matter. People talk in terms of hopefully everyone, after a two-year campaign, knowing what they are voting for when they go into the polling booth. For me, that is an argument for having a fair question, not for saying it does not matter. The existing wording put forward feels like a push question. My question on the question would be: would the Scottish Government be happy with a question that said, "Do you agree that Scotland should remain within the United Kingdom?", and I suspect they wouldn’t be. Of course, people will know what they are voting for when they go to the ballot box, but the day after the referendum one of the two players will be going round the studios explaining why they lost. The principle of the process has to be that the losing person has no legitimate process complaint that they can make. It is perfectly possible that this referendum could be as close as some of the referendums we have seen in Quebec, and it is really important that the loser gives consent, whoever that may be, out of the campaigners. There can’t be a sense of grievance or conspiracy coming out of it.

Q1765Lindsay Roy: To extend that argument a bit further, do you think it is right that the Scottish Parliament has unfettered power to determine the details of the referendum-the question, the timing and franchise-and, if so, why?

Blair Jenkins: In essence, what you are asking is: do I think the Edinburgh agreement is satisfactory in the powers allocated to the Scottish Parliament? Yes, I am content with what is in the Edinburgh agreement.

Q1766Lindsay Roy: Would you say that is unfettered power?

Blair Jenkins: I am not sure it is unfettered. They have certainly been given particular powers in relation to the conduct of the referendum, and those are laid out in the Edinburgh agreement. Both Governments approved that. Both Governments, after quite a long period of consultation and negotiation, got to an agreed position. It is greatly to the credit of both Governments that that position was reached, and that is good news for all of us.

Q1767Lindsay Roy: Blair, what is your view on that?

Blair McDougall: I think the Scottish Government was elected on a mandate to have this referendum. They have been given the right to do that, and that is correct. With that right comes the responsibility to exercise that power fairly and to be seen to exercise that power fairly for the reasons I have given.

Q1768Lindsay Roy: So you think there are enough checks and balances in the setup that has been agreed?

Blair McDougall: That remains to be seen, if I am honest. The fact that we are having this process of scrutiny is really important. My honest sense is that we have seen a lot of media and parliamentary scrutiny of this. The thing that will keep the Scottish Government honest on this is that the Scottish people wouldn’t stomach a fix. If one side or the other was seen to be trying to fix the playing field in their favour, it would backfire on them.

Q1769Lindsay Roy: So manipulation would backfire?

Blair McDougall: I think it would.

Q1770Jim McGovern: Mr McDougall seems to be quite unequivocal in saying that the organisation he represents will accept advice from the Electoral Commission. Mr Jenkins, you may or may not be saying that. Could you make your position clear?

Blair Jenkins: I will have another go at it. I would be astonished if the Electoral Commission came back with a finding on the question-

Q1771Jim McGovern: But your organisation will accept whatever the advice from the Electoral Commission is?

Blair Jenkins: To be fair, you would have to look at it first; it would not be the first time that a public body, however responsible-

Jim McGovern: Mr McDougall has said that his organisation will accept it.

Blair Jenkins: I heard that.

Q1772Jim McGovern: You are saying you might not?

Blair Jenkins: I didn’t say that at all. I said I would be utterly astonished if the Electoral Commission came back with something I found unacceptable, but you do have to leave yourself just a sliver of doubt that an experienced and highly professional body might come back with something that you would look at and think, "You know what? That is not quite right." There is precedent for that, so I don’t think that is something you can completely discount. As I said, I would find it highly unlikely. It is not something I would expect to happen. Knowing the people involved, I am sure they will do a very thorough, honest and professional job. When we all come to see their advice based on the testing of the questions they have done, I think all parties will find it acceptable advice. I would be very, very, very surprised if it turns out otherwise.

Q1773Jim McGovern: So the organisation that you represent has a get-out clause?

Blair Jenkins: If you choose to phrase it that way.

Q1774Chair: Maybe we want to come back to this. This Committee and Parliament are pretty clearly of the view that "Do you agree?" is a biased formulation. Indeed, we produced a report entitled "Do You Agree This is a Biased Question?" We would regard any formulation that simply had "Do you agree?" and then a yes or no as biased. Unless the Electoral Commission comes back with a change in that, there would still be a lingering doubt about whether the process was right or stacked against one side rather than the other. It is in that sort of area that we are worried. There is a whole number of points, relatively small in themselves, which, if added together, could make collectively quite a big difference to the way the referendum is conducted.

We will come on to finance later. Therefore, the question of the question and whether you are unequivocally prepared to accept the ruling of the Electoral Commission is an important one. I am disappointed in a sense that you have not said that, yes, unequivocally, you will accept the ruling of the Electoral Commission on the question.

Blair Jenkins: To be absolutely clear on the point, I find the current formulation of the question very clear and straightforward. I don’t think it is an unsatisfactory question. I accept that is a view that you have. I have heard the view expressed that the verb "agree" predisposes people to say yes. I have yet to read a persuasive argument as to why that would be the case. If I say to you, "Do you agree that your salary should be cut by 50%?", are you really more likely to say yes because the verb "agree" is in the sentence? As someone whose degree is in language and literature, I don’t necessarily see there is a predisposition to answer yes because the verb "agree" is in the question.

But I know the Electoral Commission have a lot of experience of testing questions and they will do a very good and thorough process. Because it seems very clear and straightforward to me, I doubt if there will be any substantial change to the proposed question, but, if there is, I am sure the Electoral Commission will provide very good reasons for why that should be. I would be very surprised if, in providing those reasons, they don’t come up with something that is compelling and persuasive for all of us. But, in fairness, you cannot say with any advisory body, "Whatever they advise, we are going to accept that in advance." You have to have a look at the advice first and then decide, "They have done their job and that is absolutely good advice."

Chair: Before I ask BM to come in, could I refer you to the report that we produced? If you have not read it, it has within it a whole number of reasons why that formulation is unacceptable, not from our perspective but simply from the perspective of experts that we had in front of us. It does indicate quite clearly that "Do you agree?" is seen to be a leading formulation. It comes back to the point I made before. In itself it will not necessarily determine the result, but I am sure you are familiar with the phrase "many a mickle makes a muckle" and that constant shaving off at the edges can make quite a substantial difference.

Q1775Mike Crockart: I wanted to make the same point, Chair. Using the example that you gave of questioning someone with a strong view on the subject you are talking about, of course you are not going to get the results that we are talking about here. Based on my experience in the police, if in questioning someone I had asked, "Would you agree that you did this?", and, "Would you agree that you did that?", it would have been thrown out of court, because it would have been seen as leading a suspect or witness to a particular conclusion. With that experience in mind, you have to accept that there is an expected result if you have a formulation of wording in that way.

Blair Jenkins: So, if the wording was "Do you think?", "Do you believe?" or "Do you support?", that would be okay? Is that what you are suggesting?

Q1776Mike Crockart: We would have to test that and see, but plenty of testing has been done on "Would you agree?" Even adding just "or disagree" seems to give a different statistical response from a given set of people, so the evidence is that it does have an effect.

Blair Jenkins: We are in the hands of the Electoral Commission here. They know what they are doing, and I am sure they will test it and come back with very good advice.

Q1777Mike Crockart: I would love to say that we are. If everybody is agreeing they will go with whatever they come out with, we would be in the hands of the Electoral Commission, but that sliver of doubt has been raised.

Blair McDougall: When these things are tested, they are tested as opinion polls. We can argue that when someone goes into a polling station, they will have a different frame of mind. You can argue that it is just a marginal difference. It may not be the difference between a 60-40 and 70-30 result either way. But we may be in a situation where we are talking about margins. The process needs to be beyond question in case there is a situation where we are dealing with marginal situations. We don’t want to have a process that encourages us to get into a situation of turmoil in the event of a narrow victory either way. I think we have got to plan for that. At the moment neither of us is particularly planning for a result that has tens of thousands of votes here or there; we both would like to win big for our respective sides, but you have to plan for the worst in this. That may not seem like a big deal; it may seem that it is marginal, but we have to plan for those marginal circumstances.

Q1778Pamela Nash: I just want to put to Mr Jenkins a point that Mr McDougall raised earlier. Would you be happy with a question that said, "Do you agree that Scotland should remain part of the United Kingdom?"

Blair Jenkins: I think that in any referendum the onus is on the side of the campaign that is proposing a change to make the case for change. I have always accepted in this referendum that there is a fair onus, if you like, on the yes campaign to make the case for change. Logically, the question should be about the change; it should be the proposed change that is captured in the question rather than the status quo, if you see what I mean.

Q1779Pamela Nash: But if the word "agree" is neutral, what does it matter?

Blair Jenkins: It is not the verb I am talking about here; it is whether what you are being asked about is a change to independence rather than staying in the United Kingdom. With regard to the question, however it is formulated, and I do accept what people are saying, the Electoral Commission may very well in their wisdom come back and say, "We think we have identified a better formulation." I would be very surprised if they came back and said that the question should not mention independence but staying in the United Kingdom. The question has to address the change that is being proposed. Going back to where I started, I believe that it is a fair and straightforward presentation of the question. I would be utterly astonished if the Electoral Commission came back with a finding or bit of advice, whatever that is, that I would take issue with, because I am sure it will be well researched and very well-founded.

Q1780Pamela Nash: How about, "Do you agree that Scotland should be separate from the rest of the United Kingdom?" That still reflects the change that would take place.

Blair Jenkins: To my mind, "separate" is a slightly loaded word, and "independent" or "independence" is a more neutral word.

Q1781Pamela Nash: Suppose the other side think the opposite?

Blair Jenkins: I am sure that is true, but, again, who knows? If the Electoral Commission come back and suggest that that be a change, that is something we can discuss at that point.

Q1782Chair: Maybe we can move on. You made a valuable point, Mr Jenkins, about its being up to those who want a change to justify that case. Surely, one of the problems with testing opinion about the formulation that we have-"Do you agree that Scotland should become independent?"-is what independence actually means at the moment. My understanding is that the Scottish Government are not going to produce their paper on what independence would mean until November 2013 or so. If they are now testing that question without independence being fully explained, to some extent it comes back to the issue of a pig in a poke, does it not? Before you test a question containing the term "independence", there ought to be a clear formulation of what independence would mean.

Blair Jenkins: I see the point you are making. There are probably two stages here that maybe address the point. In general terms, the concept of what it is to be an independent country is pretty well understood and explicable. If you say to people in the UK that Spain is an independent country but Catalonia is not, they understand the difference between a state that has total autonomy for its own affairs-which treaties it is going to enter into and how interdependent it wishes to be with other countries-and one that does not. Those are the hallmarks of an independent state.

The precise framework that is proposed that Scotland would have at the point at which the independence referendum is held is something the Scottish Government have to spell out in detail in the White Paper. You will be as familiar as we are with the list of issues around the monarchy, currency, methods of electing Parliaments and so on. Issues around what framework you would propose for independence in this particular case will be in the November 2013 White Paper. Therefore, there is a year for people to understand exactly the terms and framework for an independent Scotland that are being proposed.

But the notion or concept of what it is to be an independent country is that you make all your own decisions, whatever those are. Sometimes, those will be decisions to do things in partnership, by treaty and in an interdependent way with other countries; sometimes it will be a decision not to do things in that way. You can pose and test a question on the concept without having the detail, but I take your point entirely. I think the detail has to be fully spelt out well ahead of the vote.

Blair McDougall: My concern wouldn’t be about whether independence is clearly defined before a question is tested. My question is more whether independence is clearly defined at all. My worry is that at the moment we have embarked upon a protracted pre-debate. We don’t seem to be getting the prospectus until 2013, which is about a year from now, and that might leave only about seven months between the prospectus being put forward and the start of the 16-week short campaign. I understand the concern, but we need more debate sooner rather than looking for additional reasons to pause and reflect on things. The good thing about the two-year period is that we have two years to debate it, and we need to make sure that those two years are full of debate.

Q1783Lindsay Roy: To take an example, would independence mean that you determine your own currency and interest rates?

Blair Jenkins: That is what will have to be spelt out in the White Paper. The Scottish Government’s proposal in relation to currency should be there at that point. You will know, as does everyone else in the room, that the Scottish Government over a period of several months have been spelling out what they propose in relation to currency at the point at which Scotland becomes independent. I believe they have a fiscal commission sitting, which is due to come back and report in the spring with more details on this point. My understanding is that the precise proposals of the Scottish Government about currency would be contained in the White Paper and would form part of their proposals.

Q1784Lindsay Roy: And interest rates?

Blair Jenkins: Do you mean on who sets interest rates?

Lindsay Roy: Yes; who sets interest rates.

Blair Jenkins: Yes, that would have to be there in the proposals for the currency.

Q1785Lindsay Roy: So proper testing of the question means it would be beyond November 2013?

Blair Jenkins: I am not sure what you mean by that.

Q1786Lindsay Roy: If we are testing the question and understanding of what independence means, we won’t have that detail until at least November 2013.

Blair Jenkins: That addresses the point I made earlier-and, as far as I know, the Electoral Commission have expressed no anxiety on this-that you can test the question about the concept of independence and what it means to be an independent country. I think you can test that, because people have a fairly clear understanding of that or at least can be brought to a position of understanding the general concept of what it is to be an independent country. The precise proposals that the Scottish Government wish to put forward in their own White Paper a year from now are a second stage. I agree that it will be incumbent on them at that point to spell out what their proposals are in relation to currency and a whole range of other matters.

Q1787Lindsay Roy: Might not some people, therefore, think that to be an independent country you would set your own interest rates?

Blair Jenkins: I think you choose your currency and whether you wish to be in any form of currency partnership with other countries, so the principle is one of self-determination. Whether you choose to enter into agreements, associations or partnerships with other countries is one of the hallmarks of an independent nation.

Q1788Lindsay Roy: So you could choose dependency and somebody else making a decision about the interest rate level?

Blair Jenkins: That is your interpretation.

Q1789Lindsay Roy: It is a question I am posing to you.

Blair Jenkins: It will be spelt out in the White Paper. To put an interpretation like that on it would depend upon the precise proposals that are put forward. The general argument I have heard in favour of a sterling zone and a shared currency post-Scottish independence is very strong. I know a number of eminent figures south of the border, let alone north of the border, whether or not they agree with Scottish independence, who have said that, if Scotland does vote to become independent, it would make sense for all the component parts of these islands to have one currency.

Q1790Chair: I have slight reservations about allowing this line of questioning, because, before we know where we are, you will be rolling about on the floor hitting each other and arguing about currency and all the rest of it. Sticking to process, I think your position is fairly clear. Are you also clear that the issue of testing the question and the use of the term "independence" can be fairly and reasonably done without having the detail of what independence might mean spelt out?

Blair McDougall: I think the Scottish people have a general enough notion of what independence means in order to test it, but my real concern with waiting until that point is that that point may never come.

Q1791Chair: But that is a slightly different point, isn’t it? We are trying to identify things about which we are concerned. I will come to the question of delay in a moment. Neither of you is worried about testing taking place at the moment in isolation without everything else being spelt out.

Blair McDougall: I don’t see where the point is in the timeline towards the referendum where we would have absolute confidence that we are getting a very clear proposition anyway. I don’t know when you would wait until.

Q1792Chair: Fine. We are clear about that.

Can I come back to the question of the time scale? Two years seems to be quite a long time. A fair number of people have said to us, "Why don’t we just get on with it?" I can see that a timetable has been constructed with a White Paper not coming out until November; I can see the celebration of Bannockburn; there are the Commonwealth Games. I can see a logic to that timetable, but, on the other hand, it is almost as if you identify the time and look for a rationale for it. Why is it absolutely necessary to have such a long period? Surely, given your earlier point, Mr Jenkins, about people understanding the broad sweep of what independence is, the vote can take place much earlier.

Blair Jenkins: I am one of those people who have always been very grateful for the fact that two years are available. There is a need to engage people in the debate. There are a lot of questions that people want to raise and answer. I very much believe that in the course of the next two years, by engaging people in conversation about what it is to be independent and the benefits of independence, we will secure a majority in 2014. Clearly, I am very happy with the two-year timetable. You are perfectly entitled to ask the question. The timetable for the autumn is now settled between the two Governments.

Q1793Chair: No. It is my understanding that the end date is settled and that the power is going to be passed to the Scottish Government to determine the date.

Blair Jenkins: I see.

Q1794Chair: In my view it is up to them, quite rightly, to decide the date. If they wanted, they could respond to public opinion and say they will have it in the spring or autumn of next year, or the spring of the year after, instead of the autumn the year after next. We just wanted to hear your view, because we will probably express a view on these questions.

Blair Jenkins: My view is that I am content with the timetable.

Blair McDougall: Two years is a long time for me; it is two years of steady employment. Maybe one would say it is not terribly wise. This is the first political conversation that everybody has in the playground in Scotland. People have fairly sophisticated and developed views on this, and they will become more informed through the debate over the next two years, but, if we wanted to, we could have the referendum sooner. Blair is right that by having those two years we can have a proper and full debate. To link it to the previous line of questioning, at the moment every time a question is raised in this debate we are told to wait until November 2013. There is an opportunity, but it is one that needs to be seized rather than firing a starting pistol and we all jog on the spot for a year.

Q1795Chair: Why is it reasonable to expect that in 2013 all our questions will be answered, and, at least from the Scottish Government’s perspective, there will be no unanswered questions? For example, we produced a report recently on Trident entitled "Days or Decades?", where there is a clear choice. They can be disarmed in days and the weapons removed within months, or they could be held there for 20-odd years or so. That is a choice. Can we expect that the Scottish Government will answer that sort of question in the White Paper and that all the other issues coming up will be answered then, or, as Mr McDougall seems to be suggesting, will there still be a lot of known unknowns?

Blair Jenkins: I can offer you my best guess. I am not privy to exactly what the Scottish Government are going to put into the White Paper in November of next year, but I imagine it would have to address all the framework issues that people have. What would an independent Scotland look like in terms of the structure and organisation of the country? Then a distinction would have to be made in regard to policy items, which would have to be put to voters in Scotland in the first general election in an independent Scotland in May 2016. There is a distinction to be made, and it is one the Yes Scotland campaign has to make all the time. We do occasionally get asked policy questions such as, "Will the taxes go up or down in an independent Scotland?", to which the answer is: it depends on who you vote for. There is a clear distinction to be made between what people are voting for in 2014, which is the core principle that Scotland should be an independent country, and the precise policies that people might wish an independent Scotland to pursue, whether they are defence-related issues or anything else. These two things have to be held and looked at separately.

For instance, it is no part of my job and the yes campaign to put forward a manifesto or set of policy propositions as a campaign. That would not be appropriate. The campaign embodies a number of very different views on policy issues. I am not sure I could find a satisfactory way of reconciling all of those. We aim to be a very big tent-a very broad church. There are people in the campaign who have right of centre and left of centre views on the economy. The only admission ticket for Yes Scotland is that you believe in an independent Scotland. Provided that you believe in democracy and in an independent Scotland, you are very welcome.

Q1796Chair: Taking the example I gave of Trident, are you saying that in November 2013 we will or will not get an answer about what the position of the yes campaign is?

Blair Jenkins: You wouldn’t get the position of the yes campaign. I think you will get the SNP’s position in November 2013. Again, if I get this wrong, I apologise because I am not part of their decision-making process, but I understand that, in addition to what is formally in the White Paper in terms of the framework for an independent Scotland, at that point they are publishing their own prospectus. I believe that sets out their own policy position on a number of key areas, and the one you have identified is a very important one. Trident is a very big issue in this campaign.

Q1797Chair: One of our anxieties is about people being asked to vote for a pig in a poke and not understanding what separation will actually mean. You are separating out a lot of this into two categories: one is those things that would happen only if a particular Government is elected in 2016, which need not necessarily flow from separation at all, and the second is those things that will flow from separation.

Blair Jenkins: Yes.

Q1798Chair: That is obviously difficult, because, presumably, people could end up voting for separation on the basis that they might get rid of Trident very quickly, but, if a particular Government is elected and doesn’t go down that route, it won’t happen and they will then end up feeling deceived. It is the point about loser’s consent, isn’t it? There is an expectation that, if you vote for or against something, that something either does or does not happen, but you seem to be telling us that there would be no clear guarantees that some of the things being put forward as the benefits of independence or separation would actually happen.

Blair Jenkins: I make two points in answer to that question. One is that I find it inconceivable that in any parliamentary arrangement or outcome in an independent Scotland there would be a vote for continuing to have Trident missiles based in Scotland, but there is an onus on all political parties in Scotland, including those that do not support independence, to say what they would do about Trident in the event of Scotland voting for independence. I think your own party’s view on that would be very interesting. If Scotland votes to become independent, would the Labour Party in an independent Scotland be in favour of retaining Trident missiles on the Clyde? That would be something the public in Scotland would be very interested in knowing.

Blair McDougall: The premise behind your question is that the Scottish people would vote for a blank cheque come 2014. This is a political rather than a process point. Often, to our frustration, the response to questions is that that would be a matter for the first elections in an independent Scotland or a matter for negotiation post-independence. My opinion is that, the more people hear that, the less they are likely to vote for independence, so it is a political rather than a process point. I do not think the Scottish people will just be willing to write a blank cheque on this come 2014, but clearly there is a balance between expecting people to have a crystal ball and predict absolutely everything versus giving them detailed information on pretty fundamental things like interest rates, currency, defence and their position in the world.

Q1799Chair: How do we try to overcome that difficulty? Tell me if you think Trident is the wrong example. We just picked on that because it seemed to us to be clear that there were two identified parameters; there is obviously a grey area in between. What we are trying to flush out from those who are in favour of separation as well as the United Kingdom Government is what their position is in that event, in order that people in Scotland can realise that if they vote against separation this is the likely consequence, but, if they vote for it and the "days and months" line is pursued, the UK Government will react in such and such a way. It seems to us that that is a much better way to proceed, because that is putting as much information as we possibly can in the hands of the Scottish people. Have you got an alternative formulation?

Blair McDougall: The only way you get to a point where the Scottish people have all the information they need is by having a vigorous debate. It is a political rather than a process question, if you like. Again, I think the politics of it and my judgment on it, and our experience from the thousands of conversations our activists have had and from our own polling of focus groups, is that people in Scotland are incredibly aware that this is their decision and not one that politicians will take on their behalf that they can then unpick after a four or five-year parliamentary term. People are desperate for this information, and, if either of our camps is not furnishing them with that information, they will suffer, so this is a political rather than a process point.

Q1800Chair: Are you happy with that?

Blair Jenkins: Just to add, if it helps to clarify things, I think what we very clearly set out for people in Scotland before we get to voting in 2014 will be the structure, shape and framework of an independent Scotland. It is then for the political parties in the normal way to set out their stall and say, "If you vote for independence, then here’s what we would do with those powers." Most people in Scotland-certainly, this will form part of the yes campaign-will be anticipating what they might expect from an independent Parliament and an independent Scotland. I think they will reasonably assume that they probably have a better chance of protection of public services; they will probably be attracted by the fact that they are not going to get a Government they didn’t vote for. There are lots of things that can be presented as strong probabilities, certainties or great likelihoods, which will be part of the case that we are making.

Blair McDougall: I am desperately trying not to slip into politics as well, but this is behind a lot of the political debate in Scotland at the moment. If the other side of the argument is willing to be honest and say, "Look, we don’t know what the situation is on this; it will be a matter for negotiation", that is fine, but it is when that is camouflaged by an assertion that is not based on fact that it starts to become a problem. I think that in the course of a vigorous two-year debate that should be exposed when it exists, but honesty as to where the doubts exist is necessary.

Chair: Having discussed this with my colleagues, that is probably one of the areas where we see ourselves playing a role. There have been assertions, for example, about membership of the EU. One side says, "Yes, definitely; no doubt at all"; the other side says, "It’s not certainly the case." Somebody impartial needs to weigh that up, and we will look at that. The danger in many ways is that a slogan emerges that says, "Don’t know. Vote no." It would not be in your own interest or the interests of the people of Scotland that they ended up taking a decision because they did not know what was genuinely going to happen. It comes back to the question of a pig in a poke.

Q1801Jim McGovern: On the timing of the referendum, the Chair was quite correct to say that it has not yet been decided but it looks like it will be the autumn of 2014. When Labour was elected in 1997, part of its manifesto was to have a referendum about a Scottish Parliament. I think that took place within four months, and the Parliament was set up within a couple of years. Why do we need to wait two years for this question of Scottish separatism?

Blair Jenkins: You would expect me to say-it is objectively true-that a decision on becoming an independent country is different from a decision to have a form of devolution within the UK.

Q1802Jim McGovern: Do you think devolution was less important?

Blair Jenkins: This is not a controversial point I am making. On a scale of magnitude of change, a decision to have a system of devolution within the UK-which most people would have said was long overdue, and the UK was one of the most centralised and over-centralised countries in western Europe-had broad support but was, while a very important matter, of a different scale of magnitude from a decision to become an independent country. That is the first point. The second point would be this-

Q1803Jim McGovern: Could I just interrupt you? The latest polls seem to suggest that Scottish people are more interested in employment, benefits, welfare and the NHS than they are in separatism, so why should it take two years?

Blair Jenkins: I am not sure that the point about how interested they are relates particularly to how long it should take to have the debate. I am sure you would agree that this will become the dominant issue in Scottish political discourse over the next two years.

Jim McGovern: No, I don’t actually.

Blair Jenkins: That is a small wager we might want to have in terms of column inches and discussion. The other point about the difference between the devolution and independence debate is that the devolution debate had been around for a long time. I am old enough to remember-I suspect you are as well-the 1979 referendum. The argument around devolution, given that there were different models and different formulations in play at different times, was a very long-running one, with which I think the Scottish people had become very familiar. Until fairly recently, I doubt there were many people in Scotland who had anticipated that they would face the prospect of an independence referendum soon. It required a particular set of circumstances for that to become possible. If you like, we are starting from a lower experience and knowledge base in terms of the debate. It is a hugely important decision. Lots of people on both sides of the argument have said that this is the most important decision the Scottish people are going to make in their lifetime, so two years is not really too long to have a debate.

Blair McDougall: I think the difficulty arises and the main thing is to set an example. There was a clear policy. We are now embarked on a process where it is fairly obvious that there will not be a clear policy presented to us for another year. The question is about the political wisdom of having embarked on the process without having a clear policy and proposition prepared. Again, at the risk of straying into politics, if at the end of the two-year period we have that richer and more detailed image of what independence looks like-not just the why and principle of independence, but the what and detail of how an independent country would function, what the costs would be and so on-fine, but if we spend two years and at the end of it we are still presented with a why rather than what proposition it will be two years wasted. It will be two years in which the independence debate will have crowded out all sorts of other pressing issues within Scottish society.

Q1804Chair: Surely, lots of the issues that people would want to hear will be judged, according to what Blair Jenkins said earlier, as issues for the first separate Scottish Parliament. Therefore, you will not get lots of answers to these sorts of questions.

Blair McDougall: Taking it from the Better Together point of view, there are certain things we can argue and present, and certain things that the constituent parties within our coalition will present. Blair has set out that there will be certain things that Yes Scotland will do, and it will be incumbent on the SNP and others to set out other detailed policies. The normal business of politics will continue, certainly for the three parties within our coalition.

I guess the difficulty I am talking about is the sense that somehow politics stops with independence; that it means you don’t have to have politics and detail any more and everything will be great. Whether it is through Blair Jenkins or the SNP, there needs to be more detail at the end of that two-year period, because, if, at the end of that, we are still being told that this will be a matter for negotiation and a matter for the first elections, or even the slightly looser stuff we hear, such as, "Just imagine what’s possible", we can imagine what is possible but the business of change does not stop with imagining what is possible. You need a plan and detail. At the end of the two years we need that detail; otherwise, it will have been a waste.

Q1805Mike Crockart: It appears you are saying that, because there is a divide between process and policy issues, we will get to the end of this two-year period and have a great deal more detail but no more certainty. I am not sure that leaves us in a great position for making such a major decision. It almost feels as if there is no real need for the yes campaign to hold on for two years, because the stuff available at the end of the two years is not relevant to the initial decision. You are making the point that the initial decision is about an independent state. Everybody knows what an independent state is about, and all the rest is for negotiation afterwards. Why not just get on and make that decision and we can all have a barney afterwards about what it actually entails leading up to the first election?

Blair Jenkins: I didn’t touch on negotiation, but I am happy to go into that if you wish. I think there is a clear distinction. My colleague put it on the basis of the what and why. I absolutely believe that the what of independence has to be spelt out very fully. All the detail has to be there. People should ask all the tough questions they want to ask, and they should have answers to those questions in terms of the what of an independent Scotland and its framework and shape. The classic example here would be around something like the monarchy. The position in relation to the monarchy in the event of Scotland becoming independent is capable of being spelt out in a clear and straightforward way.

The why to my mind is going to be the heart of the debate. People will want information on the what and they will want to scrutinise that. People always want different levels of detail and should have the levels of detail that they require. That is a very important part of the campaign. But, to my mind, the most exciting part of the campaign, on which I want to spend a lot of time, is presenting a vision of what Scotland could be and should be and the kind of society and country I want to live in. That, to my mind, is where the debate should lie. We are different parties and different individuals. I don’t believe the referendum campaign will be dominated by politicians to the extent that some other campaigns have been. I believe that the non-political voices in this campaign are going to be very forceful and powerful.

Those different or competing visions, however you want to present it, of what Scotland could and should be will be at the heart of the campaign. This is about hearts and minds. People have to see that they are not voting here for a procedural change, process or some sort of tinkering. This is a fork in the road. This is a decisive decision to take a different direction and to believe there is a better future for Scotland as an independent country. That is certainly what we will be spending our time on.

Blair McDougall: I suppose the reason we are circling this issue is that a referendum on independence as a political decision is objectively different from a general election where you can kick people out afterwards. The three parties within the Better Together coalition will disagree, sometimes violently, on what the best way forward for Scotland or the rest of the UK is. They will continue to have that debate and make a virtue out of it for the reasons I gave about politics continuing and being a difficult business.

The challenge on the other side of the debate is that they are not just selling a vision of Scotland or that prospectus for a different sort of country and how it will operate. The detail has to be there. I say this not as a political point. I am trying to put myself in the shoes of a voter trying to make a decision on this, because they want to know what type of country they are going to live in. They know that once they have made the decision there is no going back. There is a need to provide a greater level of detail and assurance in this debate than there would ordinarily be in a Scottish parliamentary election. It is objectively a different sort of decision that you are asking people to make.

Q1806Chair: One issue that caused me a little concern was about asking people to imagine or have a vision of what Scotland could be. That allows a whole host of people to have mutually incompatible visions, all believing, unless there is detail about what is going to happen, that their vision could be the one that prevails. I can understand why you would want to have that to maximise the vote for the position; it would be long on vision and short on detail, and never tell anybody that they can’t have everything at once. But does that not also run the risk of being a trifle dishonest? Unless you spell out the detail of it so that people realise whether that can be achieved in line with everyone else’s objectives as well, you run the risk of buyer’s remorse.

Blair Jenkins: Suppose I did nothing to encourage debate and people to put forward visions of what an independent Scotland could and should be. They would be doing it anyway over the next two years. We have a lot of bright, imaginative and clever people in our country. I am now meeting quite a lot of them. Some I knew before and some I didn’t know before. You hear lots of really good, interesting ideas about what we could choose to do. It is going to be a very central part of the yes campaign that a lot of different voices are heard. Some of them will be saying things that are quite different. If I think of parties on my own advisory board, the Scottish Green Party have views about a future Scotland that would be different from the views of the Scottish National Party. That is fine. As long as they are honestly setting out, "Well, here is what we would do and here’s our vision of what an independent Scotland could and should be", that is okay.

I do believe-this is going to be an important part of the debate-that one of the things that underpins the yes campaign and the people we are now bringing into it, like myself, who have no background in politics and just come into it without that kind of experience, is the chance to rethink, reshape and improve Scottish life and society, and to take our opportunities and address our problems in a way we have not as a society in the past. That is one of the things that is bringing in so many different people. That is the exciting thing about this referendum and why I am involved.

Blair McDougall: There are certain things on which people will accept a degree of doubt, and there has to be honesty about what that doubt is, but for certain things people will just want to know what the situation is. Pensioners will not vote for an independence proposition unless they have detail about what is going to happen to existing pension pots and all the rest of it. There are certain things where people accept there is doubt and they can be honest about it, but there are certain things that they absolutely need detail on.

Chair: That is helpful. Pamela, you have a number of questions about finance.

Q1807Pamela Nash: I want to move on to campaign funding and regulation. To start off, I would like to hear each of your views on spending limits and the Scottish Government’s proposed spending limits for the campaign. Is that something each of you is happy with, or would you change the limits?

Blair McDougall: Taking the proposals of the Electoral Commission and the Scottish Government one at a time, I don’t know whether the Committee is aware of the paper by Nigel Smith, who ran the Scotland FORward campaign in 1997, that went to the Scottish Affairs Committee which looked at this issue. If you have not read it, I would commend it to you. He makes the point, which I think is well taken, that the PPERA framework is based on the amounts of money spent in the 1997 referendum, which was the one most immediate to that piece of legislation. He makes the point that, just with inflation, those amounts of money have now halved in real terms over that period. So, under the PPERA guidelines, we would be talking of spending roughly half of what we spent in the 1997 referendum. As Blair says, that was a very different proposition from the one we have before us now. This is a much bigger and more contentious debate than that one.

It is difficult for someone to say that because you are painted as defending the role of big money in politics, but the PPERA guidance for that 16week period, from my calculations on the plane down, equated to about 2p per voter per week over that period. For a country the size of Scotland on an issue as important as this, with the cost of a first-class stamp being 60p, it does not seem to me to be enough to be spent on something like this. That is the PPERA starting point. If you go from that to the situation where the Scottish Government in their proposals suggest cutting that amount in half again, you are in a situation where we are spending a quarter of the amount that we spent on the devolution referendum in 1997, so we are going from 2p to 1p per voter per week in that period.

Both Blair and I have a similar vision of campaigns that bring thousands of grass-roots activists through the door and encourage and enthuse a generation of people in this campaign, but that in itself costs money as well. We risk losing that opportunity of bringing people into politics for this campaign and having a properly informed electorate out there.

On spending limits, the question about the amount that political parties should spend has been debated. One thing that has been neglected in the debate about the Scottish Government’s proposals is the amount of money that trade unions and businesses would be able to spend in this. If the Scottish Government are halving the amount that the umbrella campaigns would be allowed to spend, we are talking about cutting a third on the PPERA basis of what unions and businesses are allowed to spend. It is a big problem for the umbrella campaigns and parties that the amount of money they are able to spend is being cut. For those groups that do not have existing grass-roots networks in society, their ability to enter this debate and influence it will be severely curtailed. By cutting it to £50,000, you are effectively saying that the CBI or trade unions could put out a leaflet, which Nigel Smith calculates could reach about 40% of Scottish households, or they could take out a newspaper advert, but they certainly couldn’t do both.

Blair Jenkins and I will do our best over this two-year period to try to keep people interested, but most normal individuals will switch on in that last 16-week period. There is a real concern that we will all frontload our spending before that 16-week period and it will tail off just as people are getting interested and making their decision. To be arguing that we should be spending more money on politics is not a good position to be in, but we are not talking of tens of millions of pounds but the difference between the Electoral Commission’s original guidelines and the Scottish Government’s proposal of between 1p and 2p per voter per week. Even if, as Nigel Smith suggests, you double what the Electoral Commission says, you are still talking of only 4p per voter per week. It is a pretty challenging job to run the kind of debate that Scotland needs within that framework.

Q1808Pamela Nash: I will come on to the regulated period in a few minutes.

Blair Jenkins: The overarching principle and most important point is that there should be a level playing field between the two campaigns. The starting point and building block for the regulated period should be that the two campaigns broadly defined should have equivalent funding available to them.

In anticipation that this question might come up today-coincidentally, there was a meeting of the Yes Scotland advisory board yesterday-we had a discussion about these limits. It was the first time we had had a discussion on the proposed limits. The view we took was that we felt we could run a perfectly decent campaign with the limits currently proposed by the Scottish Government. I noted what Blair said. My own view is that, from the point of view of our campaign, it will be the volunteers; it will be the fact that we will have a highly active and energised volunteer base around the country that will be at the heart of our campaign. I believe that the referendum will be won by people power and not by marketing muscle, if you like.

We would be content with the spending limits proposed by the Scottish Government during the regulated period. Equally, I accept it is possible that the Electoral Commission will come back and suggest higher limits. If that is approved by the Scottish Parliament and we end up with those higher limits in line with what the Electoral Commission propose, of course I will do my very best to raise and spend that sum of money during the regulated period.

Q1809Pamela Nash: Can I push you a bit further on the conversation you had yesterday? On Mr McDougall’s calculations, which I had not made, is it right that it would be 16p per voter for the regulated period? It is 1p per week per voter.

Blair McDougall: Under the Electoral Commission’s proposals.

Pamela Nash: The Scottish Government.

Blair McDougall: For the Scottish Government, it would be about 16p or 17½p, or something like that.

Q1810Pamela Nash: What criteria were you using in the discussion yesterday to say whether that would be enough money to get your message across to each voter?

Blair Jenkins: I must admit we did not do a per capita calculation, which I commend Blair for doing. It is a different way of looking at it. Someone talked earlier about known knowns and unknown knowns. What it would cost to do a leaflet delivery, to have a poster on the side of a bus, or put an ad in a newspaper, are things that can be quantified and you can put a value against. I believe that by the time we get to the final 16 weeks of the campaign and the regulated period there will be a very strong sense around Scotland of what the issues are. I agree that is the period during which a lot of people will make up their minds. A lot of people will make up their minds fairly late in the day, and it is true of electoral events, not just nationally in the UK but internationally, that you get quite big changes in the later stages of a campaign. We believe that with the resources under the Scottish Government’s proposals we could run a perfectly satisfactory campaign. As I say, I don’t think I will have any trouble spending the money if it is a higher limit because you can always buy more ads.

Q1811Pamela Nash: I cannot see how for that money you could even get a leaflet out to every household. If you know a printer who would do that, please let us know.

Blair Jenkins: Within £750,000?

Pamela Nash: For 17p per person.

Blair Jenkins: I assure you that you could do quite a lot of leaflet production and delivery within £750,000.

Q1812Pamela Nash: You would not be reaching every voter.

Blair Jenkins: No; you would reach every voter within that sum of money. Absolutely you could.

Q1813Pamela Nash: I would like to discuss public funding. It is in the Scottish Government’s proposals that they would not want any public funding of the campaigns. Is that the position of the yes campaign as a whole?

Blair Jenkins: We haven’t taken a view on it. I know that is what is proposed. I understand where that is coming from. When public money is tight in a referendum where one would have to assume that both campaigns are capable of generating quite a reasonable level of revenue, a case can be made for not using public funds when there are great demands being made on them, but it is not something on which I have a strong view.

Blair McDougall: My understanding was that the Electoral Commission had backed away from public funding around referendums. I think there will be sufficient interest between our two campaigns to make sure that certainly over the long period, notwithstanding my concerns about the short period, money can be raised to save the taxpayer having to fork out for this sort of thing. My concern is about the wider use of public money within this. If there was some sort of information leaflet, it would make sense for the Electoral Commission as an independent arbiter to oversee it. For three quarters of that 16-week period, the Scottish Government will still be able to operate and make the case through public money for independence. Only in the last 28 days will they not be able to do that. There won’t be another body in Scotland that is able to balance that out, because within that 16-week period I feel that the limits have been designed to handcuff us and other groups in society from being able to make that counter-argument.

Q1814Pamela Nash: Do you think the period of purdah should be extended?

Blair McDougall: That is up to the Scottish Government to decide. Again, were the period of purdah to remain as it is and the Scottish Government were actually or were perceived to have used public money to persuade people during that period in an overt way, I think they would suffer for it.

Q1815Pamela Nash: In that case, could public funding not be used to even up the goalposts? Mr Jenkins, you said that you would want each campaign to be seen to be evenly funded and that no one should be at a disadvantage because of funding.

Blair McDougall: I don’t see the need for taxpayers’ money to be spent in any way on this campaign. There will be a sufficient level of interest that people will want to support it.

Blair Jenkins: As to people’s concern about Scottish Government announcements before we get to the 28-day control period that might be intended to have a bearing on the outcome of the referendum, I am going to hazard a wild guess here. I suspect that there might be one or two UK Government announcements before we get to the 28-day period that might be intended to have a bearing on the referendum outcome as well. It’s a long shot, I know, but I suspect there might be one or two.

Q1816Chair: So that is a yes. You expect the Scottish Government to be doing that.

Blair Jenkins: I would expect both Governments to be setting out their stalls in as attractive a way as they can for the electorate in Scotland before we get to that 28day period, when you are not allowed to say or announce anything that has a bearing. As you know, I spent quite a lot of time in journalism and I am always willing to be surprised, but I am sure that people in Edinburgh and London will be thinking about what they can announce that would be well received by the people of Scotland.

Q1817Chair: Is that not an argument for saying that the Governments should be both extremely active in clarifying what should be done and what the results of negotiations might be and so on, but the period of purdah should be extended to stop the cynical practice that you have already admitted the Scottish Government will be prone to and to which you are expecting that the UK Government might retaliate?

Blair Jenkins: That is a very interesting interpretation of my remarks. Again, realism is always a healthy thing to have. All Governments when they get close to any electoral event try to position themselves in a good light in relation to the electorate. Will that happen this time? Well, you know, I think it might. I suspect that, even now, there are people in this city, let alone Edinburgh, thinking, "What could we say in 2013 and 2014 that might demonstrate our love to the people of Scotland?"

Chair: Why don’t we have big games in commemoration of a battle against the English? I understand that completely.

Q1818Pamela Nash: The two of you are now firmly in your posts, which is relatively stable employment in the political industry, as it were. I can’t remember the last time I opened a newspaper in Scotland where there wasn’t a story about the referendum-or turned on Radio Scotland, for that matter. Do you think it is right that the regulated period is only 16 weeks before it when we are two years away now and we are already so immersed in the campaign? Should that regulated period be extended?

Blair Jenkins: Do you mean from the point of view of funding?

Pamela Nash: Yes, in terms of donations.

Blair Jenkins: Again, I can only speak personally; it is not something I have discussed with my board. Speaking personally, I wouldn’t have had a problem if it had been a longer period than 16 weeks. I see some of the merit in what you are saying. I believe that is now built into the Edinburgh agreement. I am trying to remember-I don’t have it in front of me-but I believe 16 weeks is specified in there, so I suspect that is a done deal, as it were. If there had been a proposal and it had been discussed that this should be a longer period, then I wouldn’t have difficulty with that. I believe 16 weeks is quite long relative to other regulated periods. You could say it is already quite a lengthy period. You are right that it is unusual to have-well, they are not designated yet-what will become the two designated organisations in the field this far ahead, and it reflects the particular circumstances of this issue.

Blair McDougall: I agree. Relative to other campaigns, this is a long regulated period that is being proposed anyway. I would say two things. It is incumbent on us to behave responsibly anyway, whether or not we are regulated, and the scrutiny of our campaigns will help ensure that anyway. To go back to what I said before, the notion of spending a quarter of what was spent by campaigns on the 1997 devolution referendum and extending that period and further stifling the debate would be a fundamentally bad idea, given that we seem to be heading towards that tightened debate.

Q1819Pamela Nash: Would you support any voluntary system of publishing expenditure and donations up until the 16-week period?

Blair McDougall: We have said-I think Blair has said something similar as well-that we are acting as if PPERA applies to us at the moment, so we are carrying out checks on individuals who donate to us. We will disclose people who give more than £7,500 as per PPERA within a calendar year. I would also say categorically that we won’t accept any foreign donations.

Q1820Pamela Nash: Do foreign donations include British people living abroad?

Blair McDougall: We do not believe that the United Kingdom is a foreign country, which you might not be surprised to hear.

Blair Jenkins: As Blair said, we have made our position fairly clear on this as well. Just to run through it, we will not accept a sum of more than £500 from any individual who is not on the electoral register in Scotland, and we will declare any donations received over a value of £7,500. I would expect to be disclosing on a voluntary basis donations received by the campaign and donations received into the campaign before we get to the regulated period.

Q1821Pamela Nash: Are you accepting any foreign donations at all?

Blair Jenkins: No. As I think I said, we will not accept more than £500 from anyone who is not on the electoral register in Scotland. By definition, if you are not on the electoral register in Scotland, you would not be able to donate more than £500 to us. I can say I have had to tell people who wish to give us more than that sum of money that that is as much as we would accept from anyone who is not on the electoral register.

Q1822Pamela Nash: I have a friend in Ohio who might want to donate to the campaign. What if he wanted to donate £499 tomorrow? Would he be able to do that?

Blair Jenkins: I will give you the address and I would be delighted to receive it.

Q1823Pamela Nash: So you will be accepting foreign donations up to £500?

Blair Jenkins: Up to £500, yes, absolutely. There are Scots all around the world who want to signal their support. Clearly, at that level you are not having a disproportionate effect on the campaign. If an individual wants to give that sum of money, then I think that is fine, but the important thing-this is where the two campaigns differ on the point-is that we have decided to take money only from people on the electoral register in Scotland. We won’t take money from companies or institutions; we take money only from individuals on the electoral register.

One of the important things about the legislation surrounding donations to political parties, which is essentially the framework within which we are operating, is that the wording was not to do with ethnicity, national identity or citizenship; it was to do with whether or not you were on the electoral register in the area where the electoral event was taking place. We think it is appropriate for an electoral event taking place in Scotland that you should be able to contribute in any significant way to that event only if you are on the electoral register and are part of that process.

Q1824Pamela Nash: We will go into that in more detail in a minute. To be clear, is the £500 an annual figure or per donation?

Blair Jenkins: Gosh-I think that is the sum total. Over the two years, we would not take more than £500 from any individual.

Q1825Pamela Nash: For the whole two years?

Blair Jenkins: That is right.

Blair McDougall: We do not accept donations over £500 from overseas. We are currently going through a check to ensure that none of the small online donations we have had, of which there are thousands, has come from overseas. We ask everyone, regardless of the amount that they are spending, to declare that they are not from outwith the United Kingdom.

Q1826Pamela Nash: So the intent of the Better Together campaign is not to accept any such donations at all?

Blair McDougall: From outwith the UK.

Q1827Chair: This is an important point. Things have been said about not being bought and sold by foreign money and all the rest of it. You are willing to take an unlimited amount of small donations from abroad. Coming back to the point about "many a mickle makes a muckle", people in the United States, Australia, the Soviet Union-sorry, the former Soviet Union; that shows my age-or anywhere else, would be free to give the equivalent of £499 with no questions asked. My understanding is that that is not permissible under the existing PPERA rules for general elections. We will have to check that. Unless I am mistaken, that would be you going beyond the existing rules and having a different rule of your own. If the Electoral Commission come back and say that only money from the United Kingdom would be acceptable, as is allowable at the moment, would you abide by that rule?

Blair Jenkins: I would find it highly unlikely that they would. If I may put it this way, there is not exactly a flood of cash in the form of small donations coming in from overseas.

Chair: Not at the moment.

Blair Jenkins: There are people who have an emotional attachment to or connections with Scotland and wish to give a small sum of money. It is no part of my business plan for the next two years to be inundated with £499 from millions of people around the world. I don’t think that is a likely outcome, to be honest.

Q1828Chair: Is the organisation taking steps at all by any of its agents or supporters to raise any money abroad? Are you publicising the cause of Scottish separation in any foreign countries?

Blair Jenkins: There is only one I am aware of. Almost certainly I am going to get the name of the organisation wrong here and I haven’t been in touch with them myself, but it is something like Americans for Independence. Almost certainly, I have got the title wrong. They are Scots Americans who favour Scottish independence. I don’t know whether they are actively saying to people in America, "Send £499 to the Yes Scotland campaign." I really hope they are, but I don’t know that they are. There is nothing in the revenue box that would tell me that that is happening.

Q1829Chair: That is right, but, as you acknowledged earlier, these are early days. To be clear, if the Electoral Commission come back and say they believe that the election should not be bought and sold by foreign gold and money should not be taken from outwith the United Kingdom, would you abide by that?

Blair Jenkins: If the Electoral Commission were to say that-it is highly unlikely that they would-we would pay attention to that if that was their view. Attempts to buy or influence the outcome of the referendum are likely to come in much chunkier sums from other parts of the UK rather than small donations from individuals in Kansas.

Q1830Chair: I understand that you want to move on to that, but we will come to it separately. To be clear as to what you mean by "we would pay attention to that", if the Electoral Commission come back and say, "We wish neither side to take money from foreign donors", would you abide by that, or would you just take note of it-I think was the phrase you used-or pay attention to it, which left it delightfully vague as to whether or not you would abide by their ruling?

Blair Jenkins: In the unregulated period I don’t see the locus for the Electoral Commission to say that to Yes Scotland. I think that if you asked them this question they would say, "It is nothing to do with us." I am all for hypotheticals, but this is a fairly unlikely one here, Chair. I don’t think there is any prospect whatsoever of the Electoral Commission saying to us, "Don’t take foreign donations from somebody in Kansas."

Q1831Chair: In that case, you will have no difficulty in saying that you would abide by it then.

Blair Jenkins: That is right; in those circumstances I would.

Q1832Chair: You would abide by it?

Blair Jenkins: Yes.

Q1833Chair: If the Electoral Commission came back and recommended that for the regulated period, "We do not wish to have-or we recommend that neither side takes-foreign money", would you accept that?

Blair Jenkins: Yes, absolutely.

Q1834Chair: Would you accept that as being guidance as to your behaviour for the unregulated period?

Blair Jenkins: It would depend on what the Electoral Commission say. I would not want to anticipate that, but whatever they say we would abide by it.

Q1835Chair: You would abide by it; that is helpful.

Blair Jenkins: Yes.

Blair McDougall: From our point of view, we ask everybody who donates to us online to declare that they are not outwith the UK, and we check through our system periodically to make sure that nobody has acted dishonestly.

Q1836Chair: All that is easily doable. I have some sympathy for you in the sense that we don’t want to end up putting an enormously burdensome weight of administration upon any mechanism, but presumably it is relatively easily doable to identify what is and is not foreign money.

Blair McDougall: I would not say it is easy. It is an administrative task, but it is one that for reputational reasons we have said we would undertake.

Q1837Chair: You accept that it is doable?

Blair Jenkins: Definitely; you could do it. You could block people sending a couple of hundred quid from Kansas; yes, you could.

Q1838Pamela Nash: I think a lot of people would be quite offended when you say that a small donation won’t have a considerable impact on the campaign. I can think of a few pretty successful campaigns that have been built on small donations.

Blair Jenkins: Ours will be built on small donations in Scotland.

Q1839Pamela Nash: In that sense, how can you say that donations under £500 won’t have a considerable impact on the campaign?

Blair Jenkins: Of the totality of donations received by the Yes Scotland campaign, I confidently predict that a very, very small percentage of those will be from people overseas contributing a small sum of money. I suspect that both campaigns will consist, as campaigns usually do, of a large number of people giving small sums of money and a small number of people giving large sums of money. That is the way these things tend to work out. In terms of the overall campaign income to the campaign, if I can put it that way, over two years, as to small sums of money from Scots living overseas we are talking of a very, very small percentage of the totality of funds received.

Q1840Chair: There should be no difficulty giving it up then.

Pamela Nash: Yes.

Blair Jenkins: If required to do so, yes; that would not be financially burdensome.

Q1841Pamela Nash: Finally, I want to give both of you the opportunity to say whether there are any other issues regarding the regulation of the campaign under PPERA, but particularly spending, that you would like to raise with us.

Blair Jenkins: Just to reiterate a point-I wasn’t absolutely clear about what we were saying so to be clear-I think it is important that both campaigns are very transparent about their funding sources. We will certainly be making clear where our funding has come from and publishing all the details of that, and I am sure the Better Together campaign wish to do the same thing.

Q1842Mike Crockart: I take your point that it may well be a small number of donations; it may well not. Time will tell. My understanding of the Edinburgh agreement and the PPERA regulations would make me think that they are ruled out. The Edinburgh agreement says: "As under PPERA, permitted participants will not be able to accept certain anonymous donations or certain donations from individuals or organisations from outside the UK." That seems to state fairly clearly in the agreement that donations from outside the UK would not be accepted.

Blair Jenkins: I think you are talking about the regulated period. I believe you are talking about the regulated period here. I am sure that would be the case.

Q1843Chair: Surely, you wouldn’t want to avail yourselves of access to money that is ruled out during the regulated period by saying, "During the unregulated period we’ll do as we like." It is not just the letter of PPERA but also the spirit. I am sure I have seen it before, but I didn’t remember it. Surely, it is not acceptable to have a get-out of this by saying, "Well, that would be for the unregulated period." The spirit is that, if it is regulated during the regulated period, which you accept, you would therefore accept the same sort of guidelines for the unregulated period. We will check this now that Mike has drawn it to our attention. That says "permitted participants will not be able to accept certain anonymous donations or certain donations from individuals or organisations from outside the UK". There is obviously an issue about what "certain donations" means. I think Bill Clinton said, "It depends on what you mean by ‘is’." We would ask you to go away and consider that, and we will as well, and we will maybe correspond about this.

Blair Jenkins: All I can say is that the fact we are willing to take donations up to £500 from Scots living abroad was said back in May when the campaign launched. It has been said openly and publicly, and I have said it myself on many public platforms. I must admit it has never been brought up with me before.

Q1844Chair: We have never had the opportunity to meet you before. As soon as you said it, we thought, "We must ask him that when we get him in front of us", so we have been waiting to raise this with you. The other point is: how do you know that this money would only come from Scots abroad?

Blair Jenkins: That is not the issue.

Q1845Chair: But you did say that; you referred just now to money coming in from Scots abroad. There is no way of telling whether money from a name is from somebody who is genetically Scottish or originated in Scotland, is there?

Blair Jenkins: Nor would we make that a requirement. I don’t see Scottish independence as an ethnic issue at all.

Q1846Chair: Neither do I, but it was your point that you made about money coming from Scots abroad.

Blair Jenkins: In the handful of cases I know of, it is clearly people who have a Scottish connection. They are Scots who live abroad. You are right. If it was a Swede living in Kansas who decided to send us four hundred quid, then that is fine; that is okay.

Q1847Chair: These are early days and money might come in later. We will pursue this and come back to you, but we have heard what you have said on that.

To come back to finance, like many of the other rules, I think we are entitled to say, "If there’s a rule here, who benefits from it?" I wasn’t clear why the rules on restriction of expenditure were being put down so tightly until you mentioned to us that your vision was of people power, not marketing muscle. I presume, therefore, that in these circumstances you see yourselves as requiring less money than the other side, and presumably, therefore, the low expenditure limits are designed, if not to benefit yourselves, at least to handicap the others. Is that a fair reading of it?

Blair Jenkins: No. The question put to the advisory board was: if the limits for campaign expenditure, accepting that some items are not included in campaign expenditure, were as proposed by the Scottish Government, could we run from our point of view a perfectly viable, decent and satisfactory campaign? The board took the view that, yes, we could. From my perspective, if there is more money available during that time, no doubt I will find ways to spend it.

Blair McDougall: We both want to have campaigns that are powered by people, but that costs money. If you have 20,000 to 30,000 people out on doorsteps on polling day, they need to be holding something; they need to be delivering messages that you have developed; they need to be feeding back the information into centrally-held computers and all the rest of it. This stuff costs money. The notion that we can enthuse and engage a generation of Scots who have not been involved in public life and civic activism before without spending money on it is nonsense. It isn’t altruistic to ensure that we don’t have big money campaigns but have grass-roots-driven campaigns. I don’t think that is the motivation behind it. I think it is an attempt to close down debate in that 16-week period.

Q1848Chair: "An attempt to close down debate in that 16-week period". Do you recognise that at all?

Blair Jenkins: During the 16-week period, I imagine that the newspapers will be full of very little else other than the referendum campaign. Broadcasters will be dealing with the referendum campaign every single day. One of the big changes in recent years in terms of how politics is conducted in this country is the growing use of the internet. We are now in a position where everybody has their own megaphone. There are lots of ways of reaching hundreds of thousands of people, frankly, at very minimal cost over a broadband connection. There are all sorts of ways of presenting and distributing information that are relatively cost-free, which were not there at the time of the devolution referendum.

Q1849Chair: Are you concerned that your rivals are concerned by the low limit? It comes back to the question of fairness and both sides being happy with the arrangements reached. We are suspicious and cynical-understandably so given what is being done with the question-that the Scottish Government will try to seek to shave advantages at every point during the process. Do you not recognise that the fact your opponents are concerned with this limit is something that ought to give you cause for concern?

Blair Jenkins: I go back to what I said was the fundamental principle. Provided there is equal funding available to both sides during the campaign period, that protects the level playing field principle. You could fix the sum lower or higher, but the key point should be that we have equivalent sums available to us.

Talking about the broader landscape within which the referendum would be conducted, mention was made earlier of newspapers. On present analysis, one would have to assume that at the time of the referendum the majority of the national newspapers being distributed in Scotland, maybe not local ones, on present evidence, would perhaps be more likely to favour the no rather than yes campaign. There is more to the landscape of how information is being presented and how campaigns are being conducted than just this.

Q1850Chair: We will come later to the media, bias in the BBC and so on. We will come on to that in a second.

Blair McDougall: Chair, could I pick up on one point there? Of course we will be fighting campaigns through vast distribution of e-mail; we will be fighting them aggressively through the media, but a newspaper-even a local newspaper-is unlikely to pick up on a lot of the issues on which people will be making decisions. The example I always have in my head is that of a woman who was giving her opinion of independence. She lived near the border in Dumfries and Galloway and her post currently came from a sorting office in Carlisle. Her question was, "Will it mean that I have to wait an extra day for my mail from Glasgow?" That will never be front page in The Scotsman; it is not going to be on "Reporting Scotland", but it is an incredibly important issue to her. If you don’t have someone from your campaign and someone from my campaign addressing those personal issues of people, you will not have as informed a debate as you might have. If you are always relying on the national media agenda to capture what people are interested in, a whole range of very personal, specific and locally geographic issues important to this debate will be lost to it. That is why you need well-funded grass-roots campaigns.

Q1851Chair: Why do grass-roots campaigns need to be well funded?

Blair McDougall: Because you need staff to organise it; you need materials for them to hand out; you need the infrastructure behind that for people to feed back voter information, and all the rest of it. To take the notion of spending a couple of pence per voter over that 16week period, if you really squeeze yourself you can do a couple of leaflets and run your central campaign out of that, but for a decision of this magnitude that affects so many different aspects of Scottish life, if you don’t have the ability to provide detailed, localised and targeted materials for people, you are missing a trick.

Q1852Chair: Do you think this limit has been drawn up deliberately to disadvantage your side of the argument, or does this not apply equally?

Blair McDougall: Were I a more paranoid person, I would say yes. I cannot honestly understand why it has been set so low so that potentially it is a quarter of the limit of the much less contentious and wide-ranging campaign in 1997. It is for the Scottish Government-this is a healthy process of examination-to explain why it has been set so low.

Q1853Chair: This is one of the issues where there is clear divergence between the two sides and where each has strong views. This raises the issue about the Scottish Government being the final decider on these sorts of issues because they are also a participant in the dispute. There is an issue about whether or not it is reasonable in these circumstances for one team to be able to pick the referee as well. Notwithstanding the points you make about not abdicating responsibility to an unelected body, there is also an issue, is there not, about fairness and the appearance of fairness where the nationalists, with a majority in the Scottish Parliament, are able to decide the rules when they themselves are directly involved? Is there not potentially an issue here-of which this is perhaps the most prominent example we have discussed, but it also applies to the question-of the whole thing being seen to be skewed because the referee is not impartial?

Blair Jenkins: Even if the spending limit is lower than some people may think appropriate but it is the same for both sides, I can’t see how that advantages one side or the other.

Q1854Chair: You seem to be perfectly happy with the spending limit; the other campaign is not. The question is: who decides? If those who are deciding are themselves involved directly in one of the campaigns that are in favour of retaining the spending limits, it would appear they are not an impartial body. It comes back to the issue about having a decision on this that is clear and decisive and having loser’s consent.

Blair Jenkins: I would venture a prediction. If the Electoral Commission, having consulted the campaign and having consulted widely, came back to the Scottish Government-the Scottish Parliament, rather, more appropriately-with a recommendation on a higher spending limit than the Scottish Government currently propose, there is a very good chance that that is going to be accepted, on the basis that a good, honest and professional process will have been gone through by the Electoral Commission to arrive at figures. If they present a higher figure, perhaps one they have currently identified as their own preferred solution, with the reasons supporting that, I would expect that to command support. I think that would be the case. But the question we asked ourselves was: if the limit is at that level, could we do it? The answer is that, yes, we could.

Q1855Chair: I understand that. I moved on from that in a sense by recognising that there was a disagreement.

Blair Jenkins: Although it is a very important issue and no one believes that more than I do, a degree of restraint in how much is being spent is probably something that the public would welcome at that point. I was in the United States towards the closing stages of the presidential election. I was in Florida, which is a swing state. There were four or five ads at every break on every channel for presidential candidates. Luckily, we don’t have political advertising on television in this country, but we could have overkill during those 16 weeks as well as a really good debate. One would not wish for overkill.

Blair McDougall: My sense is that we are a long way from overkill. We are in a situation where we are looking at literally no political advertising in newspapers either from the campaigns or groups like business or trade unions.

This goes back to your opening question, Chair, about whether section 30 was the right vehicle for this. There is a consensus, which I think is right, that there should be a referendum made in Scotland. The fear is that, if you continue to strip away at every possible tactical advantage you can claim as the Scottish Government, it starts to look a bit more like a referendum made in Florida. You have to have that loser’s consent; you cannot have a sense going into this referendum that one side or the other has been disadvantaged, partly because you want to avoid turmoil at the end of the day. If I were sitting in the other Blair’s chair, I wouldn’t want to project to the Scottish people from my side of things any sort of sense that this was about trying to fix things in their favour, because our sense is that Scots won’t like that.

Q1856Mike Crockart: I have a few questions about the franchise for the referendum, which to all intents and purposes to a large extent has been agreed by both Governments as being based on the Scottish parliamentary and local government elections. I would still welcome the views of each side as to whether you feel that is a fair basis for the franchise for the referendum.

Blair McDougall: The main issues that remain around the question of the franchise are about 16-year-olds, child protection and all the rest of it.

Mike Crockart: I will come on to that.

Blair McDougall: There is also an issue around the 800,000-odd Scots who live and work in the rest of the United Kingdom. Our campaign-perhaps this also goes for the campaign of Blair Jenkins-is inundated with people from the rest of the UK who are frustrated that they won’t have a vote in this. I sympathise with the Scottish Government on this, because it is very difficult to find a way of extending that franchise, but it is an issue that needs to be respected and reflected in the debate. There are a large number of Scots living in the rest of the UK who are pretty angry about not being part of this debate. Broadly speaking, the main issue that is outstanding within the question of franchise is 16-year-olds and various issues around that.

Blair Jenkins: I am satisfied with the decision that the electoral register will be the one that is used for Scottish parliamentary elections. That seemed logical. Had it been something different we would have lived with that, but that seems perfectly logical to me.

Q1857Mike Crockart: We have already talked about the potential for a Swede living in Kansas to contribute towards campaign finances to try and make it go one way or the other, but we are talking about a Swede living in Comrie who is able to vote. Do you think that is reasonable when so many Scots, for whatever reasons-for example, they are working for multinational companies-end up being outwith Scotland and are excluded from that franchise?

Blair McDougall: My grandfather was an Englishman who moved to Scotland and became a Scot by virtue of living there. Blair mentioned earlier that if you live in Scotland, you are a Scot for all intents and purposes on this. That said, were I a Scot who had transferred from working for Standard Life in Edinburgh to working for Standard Life outside Scotland, taking my family with me, and I suddenly found that I was disenfranchised, I would be angry. It is difficult to see what you do about that. We all need to be sensitive to the fact that those Scots in the rest of the United Kingdom, while they may not have a vote, have a voice in this campaign and it needs to come out in the debate.

Q1858Mike Crockart: One area that has been raised particularly is those members of the army that are based outwith Scotland. It is taking the Standard Life example but to another extreme where you have been posted; you have not made a choice to move outwith Scotland. Is that an area that needs a bit more focus to make sure that fairness is achieved in that?

Blair McDougall: Absolutely. We spent a bit of time looking into this. Service personnel and their families are very particular circumstances. There are arrangements by which certainly some service personnel can still register back in Scotland. If it is annoying in the Standard Life example, it is particularly annoying if you are in Helmand province, and you would not get to vote for the future of your country.

Mike Crockart: You are nodding in agreement.

Blair Jenkins: I am aware there are technical issues around this. On the face of it, I see the argument that, if there is a way to allow people who are stationed overseas in that way to vote, that should be provided for, if there is a way of getting round it technically. I know there are issues; I won’t pretend to be expert in all of them. If a solution can be found, that would be a good thing.

Q1859Pamela Nash: We are talking about members of the armed forces posted abroad. What about Scottish armed forces that are permanently posted in English cities? Do you think they should have the vote?

Blair Jenkins: I know there are circumstances in which that is possible. You can elect to remain on the electoral register. Clearly, service personnel who have elected to remain on the electoral register in Scotland would be entitled to vote. I am not aware of circumstances beyond that where people who had been away from Scotland for quite a number of years, to take one category, would have the right to vote and not other categories. I think the residential qualification remains the right one. There are special exemptions for service personnel in certain circumstances, and I believe those should be applied in this referendum, yes.

Q1860Chair: My understanding is that there are different rules for service personnel based in Germany as distinct from service personnel based in the rest of the United Kingdom, which seems to be an unfair anomaly. It is easier to get a vote in Scotland if you are based in Germany than if you are based elsewhere in the United Kingdom, because you are then eligible to vote in a general election by virtue of where you are. We have always encouraged the forces’ leadership to have their people registered locally where they are in order that they don’t miss out at all, particularly for general elections, but in these circumstances, it means that you have a base within the United Kingdom and therefore you would not be eligible to vote in Scotland in this referendum.

This is an immensely complex area. If both of you are saying, as I think you are, that you would welcome, if it was at all possible, arrangements to be made that would maximise the number of Scottish service voters based furth of Scotland being able to vote in this referendum, we would want to reflect that and in turn hope that the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament would reflect that in the detailed arrangements that they make. Is that a fair assessment of both your positions?

Blair McDougall: There are about four units recruited from Scotland based elsewhere in the United Kingdom. You are right; you are testing the limits of my knowledge, but if they are then posted overseas it is easier for them to vote in Scotland than if they remain on a home UK base, as it were. This will rightly be an emotive issue for people. If there was something that the Scottish Government could do to examine how to make sure that service personnel could be caught within that-probably we are not talking of a huge number of people-it would be a worthwhile exercise.

Blair Jenkins: I always hesitate to express an opinion where I don’t feel that I am master of all the facts. This is one of those cases. I am not master of all the detail here, but it sounds to me like something that ought properly to be explored, and if there was a way of resolving it, that would be a very good thing.

Chair: We will check some of this stuff with the MOD, but we will feel much happier in making a recommendation on it given that there seems to be a consensus between the two of you on the principle. We might end up with some disagreement about detail, which is fair enough, but, in terms of the general principle, that incentivises us to pursue it. It would also apply to RAF personnel and naval personnel who move down to Portsmouth and stuff like that. We will look at that.

Q1861Jim McGovern: On the franchise and who is allowed to vote, one example put to me is that Terry Butcher, a former England captain, will be allowed to vote, whereas one of the most famous Scots in the world, Sir Alex Ferguson, won’t be allowed to vote. Does that seem fair?

Blair McDougall: Or, for that matter, only one of the Scottish Olympians would be able to vote because the others are based elsewhere in the UK. It is not fair. To go back to my previous answer, it is a difficult question to understand. If you are that person from Standard Life and you have just moved down, most people would think that seems dramatically unfair; if you are a second generation Scot living in Corby, people might think that is pushing it slightly. It is difficult to see where you draw the line on that.

Chair: Possibly we could extend it for Olympians.

Q1862Lindsay Roy: There is also the supreme irony that, for example, a number of people who represent Scotland in the national football team won’t be able to vote either.

Blair Jenkins: At the end of the day, all sorts of anomalies are thrown up, but the residential qualification seems to be the right one, and that is the precedent applied in every other referendum of this kind that I am aware of. As things currently stand, two of my three children are unlikely to be able to vote in the referendum because neither lives in Scotland at the moment. There are undoubtedly lots of cases where people are living abroad for different reasons, usually to do with employment, and would like to vote, but I can’t see any way round the residential qualification and the electoral register and I don’t know of a precedent where something else has been applied.

Q1863Chair: Would you be willing to accept changes to that in principle, if one could be found? Is that the position of both of you?

Blair Jenkins: I think the residential qualification and being on the electoral register seems to me to be the only criterion because it gets you round all the issues that none of us wants to get into about what it is to be a Scot and that kind of thing. If you live in Scotland, are a citizen of the EU and you have decided that this is where you want to base yourself and have your life, you are entitled to a vote. If you were born in Scotland and you decide, for perfectly valid reasons, that your life will be in another country, you vote in that country. That seems reasonable to me.

Chair: So we can have Swedes for separation and things like that-groups set up-when they are not in Kansas.

Q1864Mike Crockart: I am afraid I have to go off to another meeting. I will quickly point out that, as a former employee of Standard Life, I am sure they would be very happy that they have had four mentions in this session already. I am going to use the phrase "Do you agree?", so you will obviously want to say yes in response. Do you agree that the one departure from the franchise based on the Scottish Parliament franchise at the moment is to do with 16 and 17-year-olds? Do you agree that, in order for that extension of the franchise to be fair, all 16 and 17-year-olds must end up being added to the electoral roll?

Blair Jenkins: Yes. I know these are early days, but, as I understand it, the Scottish Government have put forward proposals by which everyone who is 16 and 17 at the time of the referendum would be able to vote, and they are pushing that change through. I am personally delighted that 16 and 17-year-olds will be able to vote. I will be honest and say that, again, from journalistic experience, I thought it might be one of those things that got negotiated away in the course of the negotiations between the two Governments and might have been traded off in the eventual settlement. I was personally very pleased that it wasn’t. It is a very important point of principle that 16 and 17-year-olds get to vote in this referendum. I believe that steps should be taken to make sure that everyone who meets the age requirement should be able to vote.

Blair McDougall: I will say yes in terms of the debate. There are clearly some 16-yearolds who, for child protection issues, you can’t have on the electoral register. The principle of having a transparent electoral register is an important one, but in terms of the number of people you are talking about across Scotland, it will probably not breach that principle too much. I was similarly delighted that we had votes at 16 as someone who had campaigned for it for many years. I think it will be one of the things that typify this. The whole contest will be viewed through the lens of those 16 and 17-year-olds participating in democracy for the first time.

Q1865Chair: Can I be clear about the child protection aspect of it? Are you saying that for child protection reasons some of these people should not be on the register or that they should not be on the public register?

Blair McDougall: I don’t know what the solution is, but you clearly need one. Children may be vulnerable for all sorts of reasons. There may be an unstable parent trying to get back in contact with them and that sort of thing whom you would not want on the register.

Q1866Chair: On the publicly available register?

Blair McDougall: Publicly available, yes.

Q1867Chair: But the principle would be that they should be on a register somewhere in some way?

Blair McDougall: I think we need to find a way so that they can still vote.

Chair: I wasn’t entirely clear what you were saying. It is helpful that that is clarified.

Q1868Jim McGovern: We talked a couple of minutes ago about anomalies. Do you both agree that there must be an anomaly? A couple of weeks ago I was in a supermarket that sold fireworks. It said that you had to be 18 years of age to buy fireworks. I would regard it as an anomaly that you could vote on the future of your country but you can’t buy a packet of sparklers. Do you agree?

Blair McDougall: On the surface, it is an anomaly, but there are lots of such anomalies. To take the old principle of no taxation without representation, if you are 16 and are employed you end up paying taxes, so I think you should have the right to vote.

Jim McGovern: But you can’t buy sparklers.

Blair McDougall: No, you can’t buy sparklers.

Blair Jenkins: You can’t drink; there are lots of things you can’t do. The taxation point is an important one. I left school at 16 and moved hundreds of miles away from where my parents were. I was earning my own income and paying taxes. As a 16-year-old, did I feel I should be able to vote? I absolutely did, and I think it is absolutely right that 16-year-olds get the right to vote.

Q1869Lindsay Roy: To go beyond the referendum, is it your belief that they should be able to vote in general elections and local elections as well?

Blair McDougall: Yes.

Lindsay Roy: It is mine.

Q1870Chair: But that is not a question for us today, regrettably or otherwise. BJ, can I come to the point you are touching on about the media? How are we going to make sure that there is a media that transmits information as distinct from solely gossip and opinion? It is not so much a problem, in my view, in terms of the press, because everybody knows the press is biased, as it were, one way or the other. You go through all the papers and identify whose side they are on. It is perhaps more of a difficulty for the broadcast media where there is the appearance of impartiality but, particularly in the case of the BBC, a degree of bias. How do you think that is to be regulated and covered?

Blair Jenkins: If I can jump in, it is an area I know something about. The fact is that broadcasters are absolutely required to show impartiality in the way they report affairs. There are particularly onerous requirements in how they report what are regarded as major issues and matters. This certainly falls into that category. The answer would be that, if either side in the referendum debate feels it is being unfairly treated by any licensed broadcaster, in every case there are avenues one can take to register complaints. There are very serious consequences if broadcasters are found to be in breach of the impartiality requirements.

Broadcasters make mistakes. As you might imagine, there is no shortage of people on the yes side of this debate who are inclined to see in various broadcast items things that they regard as unhelpful or unfavourable to them. I have no shortage of people telling me that we should be firmer in our representations to broadcasters about being treated fairly. Having an inside perspective, I very rarely see anything that I regard as deliberate bias. I certainly see mistakes being made. Mistakes are usually made because people are not adequately resourced. Programmes have lost resources. A concern everyone involved in this debate should share is that resources are being so drastically diminished, particularly in BBC Scotland, at a time when we depend on them to be one of the cornerstones of a really good, well-conducted referendum campaign.

As someone who held a senior role inside BBC Scotland until five or so years ago, I am very aware of the strength of feeling within the journalistic community about the fact that they are overstretched and they don’t have adequate staffing resources and budgets to do the kind of journalism they would wish to do. Until I joined the yes campaign I looked at everything from a purely journalistic, broadcasting perspective. At the moment I suppose I am more aware of opportunities being missed where programmes could be made to help explain issues and provide information and context to people where I don’t think the issues have perhaps been treated with enough depth or given enough context and perspective. We will meet with the broadcasters, as I am sure the Better Together campaign will, and make sure that they understand where we are coming from and the way in which we would hope the campaign would be reported.

I agree with you that the press in this country is to a very large extent unregulated. We wait to see what Lord Justice Leveson has to propose in terms of whether there should be a different system of regulation, but at the moment there is an unregulated press, which largely reports as it sees fit and without any need to demonstrate impartiality or objectivity. As someone once said, that is the sea in which we swim. That is just the landscape in which we operate.

Blair McDougall: I don’t have much more to add on top of the guy who wrote the book on this stuff. The difference between, for example, the BBC and a print journalist is that there is a rule book written somewhere to which you can hold people accountable. We have already had those meetings with management. I am sure the BBC have had them, or are about to have them, as well. They will have clear guidance on language, the balance of panels and all that sort of stuff. The confidence we take from the BBC, given that the director general resigned, is that someone will always eventually take responsibility for something within the BBC. The flipside of it is that, from our market research of what the Scottish people want from this debate, the importance of the BBC cannot be overstated on this; it is an incredibly trusted message carrier, and people will take their opinions from the BBC much more than they will from other sources. It is incredibly important that that process is there and there is that process of engagement. Like you, I think that most times when there is a big debate people on either side take to Twitter and call the BBC hopelessly biased one way or another, which probably means they are roughly in the right place. There needs to be that process of engagement when those mistakes happen or that guidance and policy is not picking up an important point in the debate.

Blair Jenkins: I wouldn’t wish former colleagues and friends at STV to think I was ignoring them. I do obviously believe that STV has a very important role to play in the election campaign as well. My personal view, which is as a broadcaster and journalist, is that the half-hour programme that STV now do at 10.30, "Scotland Tonight", is a very good and welcome addition to the available sources of debate and information in Scottish life. I am very glad they did that. It seems to me to be doing a really good job.

Chair: I was not sure whether or not you were going to say that STV are just as bad, but possibly not.

Q1871Lindsay Roy: I find it a bit ironic that you rightly highlighted the diminution of resources for the broadcast media and yet you didn’t seem to feel concerned about the reduction in resources in global terms, compared with the devolution campaign, for grass-roots propagation.

Blair Jenkins: I think I see the comparison you are drawing. As to BBC Scotland, at the point I left, which was 2006 I think I am right in saying, but technically in 2007, already at that stage some of the programmes I was responsible for as head of news and current affairs were pretty thinly stretched. Staffing and resources were tight. Things have got significantly worse since then. We are talking about an organisation that has a key role to play in the referendum campaign, where there is a great risk that editorially it will not be able to do the job that journalists want to do because it does not have sufficient capacity to do that. I hope that can be rectified, and I think there is enough of a public debate going on in Scotland about this at the moment. I think Magnus Linklater wrote a column on it in The Times today.

There is enough concern being flagged up that it is not too late to do something about it, but I agree with Blair McDougall. We all have an interest in a strong BBC journalistic presence through these two years, particularly as we get closer to the referendum, not just in the scheduled news and current affairs programmes but in spotting opportunities to construct special programmes, debates and ways of getting the electorate engaged in this. The BBC have a special role. I wouldn’t quite make the comparison or draw the parallel that you did.

Q1872Lindsay Roy: The proposed amount of money available for campaigns is reduced. What was the figure per head you gave, Blair?

Blair McDougall: It is either 1p or 2p per head.

Q1873Lindsay Roy: Your plea was that you wanted further funding to disseminate information at grass-roots level. That was the point I am trying to raise.

Blair Jenkins: If the BBC could conserve programme budgets to position them where they were a few years ago, that would be adequate. I am not suggesting they should be increased beyond where they were a few years ago.

To go back to the spending limits in the regulated period of the campaign, I believe in our volunteer network as the primary means of delivering our message during that period. I could live with those limits. If you give me more money, great, I’ll spend it, but, if I am being asked whether I can work within those limits, yes, I can.

Q1874Lindsay Roy: Blair’s point was that he wanted some additional resources. Is that the case?

Blair McDougall: My point is that you can have a grass-roots network but you need to be able to resource it. Important as the national media are, they will never cover the full range of issues. The campaigns themselves need to be able to put their case directly to the people without the sometimes helpful and sometimes unhelpful filtering of the media.

Q1875Chair: Blair, I recall an outrageously deferential interview that you had with the BBC, and then it transferred over to some poor Labour spokesman, who got a proper hammering. It was the contrast between those two that struck me at the time as being reflective of bias. Neither of the interviews could be seen in themselves to be particularly wrong; it was just the juxtaposition. There is still an issue about what is seen as bias, in particular the use of presenters who are identified publicly as partisan and yet are presented as if they were impartial experts. These are issues that both sides will probably want to pursue with the broadcasters. It distorts the position quite considerably if people are being given somebody as a talking head with the impression that they are impartial and yet they are coming from a particular background.

Blair McDougall: I suspect people in Blair’s office were watching the same interview and thinking the exact opposite.

Q1876Chair: Oh, no. It couldn’t possibly be the one I am thinking of.

Blair McDougall: There is always a subjective element in these things. Blair Jenkins rightly made the point earlier that what will be different about this referendum campaign is that both sides will bring in non-politicians, experts and academics, as spokespeople for their campaigns. Last week we had Hugh Pennington, an eminent microbiologist, delivering a message for us about science. For those journalists, the key thing is to recognise that when those people are deployed by our campaigns they require the same level of scrutiny as would a politician. Perhaps it is not the Paxman test of lamp posts and dogs in terms of their treatment, but, if you are going on to make a political point on behalf of a political campaign, you deserve a level of scrutiny that you wouldn’t have if you were just a talking head. That is something broadcasters in particular will need to come to terms with over the next two years, because both of us will be putting up increasingly large numbers of normal people, for want of better terminology, into the debate.

Blair Jenkins: I suspect I know the interview to which you are referring. The perception might have been due to the very persuasive way in which I was answering the questions. I worked in newspapers for a little while before I went into broadcasting. The professional etiquette or conduct of people within broadcasting is such that you very rarely know where any individual is coming from politically. Usually, anyone who has a political agenda in broadcast journalism can be spotted a mile off. Their colleagues are the first to spot them. To take my own case, in the last six months people I have worked with professionally for 30 years have said to me, "I had no idea that you were in favour of independence", and I said, "Well, why should you?" Professionally, the etiquette within broadcast journalism is that you don’t talk about your views on any subject. Anyone who comes with a political agenda you usually do see them coming.

Sometimes, I slightly regret professionally the over-use of the over-aggressive or over-adversarial interview. I sometimes think it produces more heat than light, and it is something the profession probably needs to address a little bit. Broadcasting is the key information source for most people. I mentioned earlier how important the internet was. In spite of the rise of the internet, the percentage of people who identify television as their main source of news increases year on year. About 81% of people now say that their main source of news and information is television, so it is enormously important. It is in all our interests that there is a good range and diversity of programmes and presenters. Over the years I have had complaints from all political parties from time to time about different programmes and presenters. Usually, if something has gone wrong in an individual circumstance, you say, "Okay; we didn’t quite get that right." But I don’t think there is systemic bias and I don’t honestly believe that most people looking at either of the main broadcast services in Scotland would see systemic bias.

Q1877Chair: The final point that we want to raise, unless there is anything else on this, is the question of moving forward. We have made it clear on a whole number of occasions that we want to try to shed light on a number of unknown areas. That was why we produced a report on Trident. We are doing a number of things on defence.

Are there any particular areas on which you think it would be helpful for us to focus or to bring in expert witnesses to give us their views on particular questions? I don’t think we would necessarily find ourselves in a position where we produced something that was agreed by all parties, but it would certainly help to raise the standard and quality of debate.

I know that Dundee university is doing some of this; we ourselves have identified a whole number of questions in a previous report. I just wonder whether there is anything in particular that springs to mind as a suitable subject for examination. You mentioned the lady and the post office. We are looking at that. Pensions were mentioned at one point. We are also getting something drawn up on that. If you can’t think of anything just now but something does spring to mind, by all means let us know and we will follow it up with our well-known partiality-impartiality. That was almost a Freudian slip there. Thank you for the heckle from the gallery.

The final point we always want to put to people is, are there any answers that you had prepared for questions we have not asked? Are there any particular points that you want to make that we have not covered at all so far and you would not want us to omit?

Blair Jenkins: One thing is perhaps to say in different terms what I said right back at the beginning. I think the eyes of the world are on us over the next two years, not just in Scotland but in the UK as a whole. It is very important that the UK, Scotland and all of us who live here conduct ourselves in a very open, courteous, tolerant and civilised way over the next two years. At the end of the day I hope and am confident that the people of Scotland will vote yes to independence in two years’ time, but, whatever the outcome of the referendum, we then move on as a society and both sides have to be accepting of the result.

I made very clear on day one of taking over this job that I, for instance, would not get involved in personal attacks on anybody on the other side of the argument. I have been invited on and off the record by journalists to say things about various individuals associated with the no campaign. That is not a game I play and I am not going to do that. The day after Scotland votes for independence, the people who have a different point of view from my own will be citizens of an independent Scotland just like the rest of us and I am sure will be trying just as hard as I will be to make Scotland everything it could and should be. That is the spirit in which I come into this, and it is the only political campaign I am ever going to be involved in. It is the spirit in which I have entered into it and it is the way the yes campaign will conduct itself over the next two years. I really do honestly think this is a tremendous opportunity for all of us, whatever our point of view, to begin to think in a new, imaginative and fresh way about what kind of society and country we want to be. It will be a fantastic experience for Scotland, and I am really looking forward to it.

Blair McDougall: I agree with almost all of that, apart from the bit about how we will all be citizens of an independent Scotland. The scrutiny of this is really important. There is sometimes a reluctance in politics to ask some of the big questions or delve below the surface of some of the superficial stuff. As Blair says, this is an opportunity to take a big, long look at ourselves as a country and have that debate. I hope that the collateral damage to your process, if you like, as well as having decided our constitutional future, is that fresh ideas will have come forward for the future of Scotland. I am really pleased that through Better Together we have got thousands of normal people, using that terminology again, involved in politics who wouldn’t have been involved before, and I think there is a chance to revive Scottish participative democracy through this. That is a really exciting possibility.

Chair: Thank you very much for coming. I hope you feel you have been dealt with courteously and politely. Good; I am glad to see that you are nodding your heads. Nodding heads is not recorded, but we will say for the record that both the witnesses did nod their heads in agreement.

Prepared 27th November 2012