Referendums (Scotland) Bill - Call for Evidence

The Scottish Government introduced the Referendums (Scotland) Bill on Tuesday 28 May 2019. The Policy Memorandum explains that the Bill covers a range of issues which can be broken down into three main topics headings:

  • The framework;
  • Conduct of polls and counts;
  • Campaign rules. 

The Committee is the lead Committee and in order to inform its scrutiny is seeking written evidence on all aspects of the Bill including the issues highlighted below.

The Bill provides a legal framework for the holding of referendums on matters that are within the competence of the Scottish Parliament. The Policy Memorandum explains that unlike the position for referendums held under Acts of the Westminster Parliament, there is no standing framework for devolved Scottish referendums. The Policy Memorandum states that the precedent for a standing framework of procedural rules for a referendum is Part 7 of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act (PPERA). Since 2000, several UK referendums have been held under the framework set out in PPERA including the EU referendum in 2016.

  • What are your views on the overall policy objectives of the Bill?
  • What are your views on the extent to which the Bill reflects good practice in holding referendums?  

 The Bill allows for Scottish Ministers to make regulations providing for the holding of a referendum throughout Scotland. The regulations must specify:

  • the date on which the referendum will be held;
  • the form of the ballot paper to be used, including the wording of the question or questions and the possible answers to it or them;
  • the referendum period.

The Electoral Commission must be consulted on these regulations before they are laid in the Parliament.

  • What are your views on these regulation-making powers?
  • Should the Bill provide for the possibility of citizen-initiative referendums?

The Bill sets out technical aspects of holding referendums and the Policy Memorandum explains that these are largely based on existing UK and Scottish legislation covering elections and referendums.

The Bill covers the franchise, rules for voting and how a poll should be conducted. It also provides for persons and organisations to become permitted participants and for the designation of official campaigns, sets out campaign rules and deals with the administration of, and limits upon, spending and donations to campaign participants.

  • What are your views on the Bill’s approach as to who is entitled to vote?
  • What are your views on the extent to which the Bill will provide for referendum polls and counts to be run in an efficient, transparent and fair manner?
  • What are your views on whether the Bill will ensure that campaigns in support of a referendum outcome are conducted in a fair and transparent manner?
  • What are your views on the extent to which the provisions for franchise, conduct and campaigns within the Bill reflect lessons learned from previous referendums within Scotland and the UK?  


The Committee is also responsible for considering the Financial Memorandum (FM) to the Bill. The FM must set out the best estimates of the costs and savings to which the legislation would give rise, best estimates of the timescales over which such costs or savings would be expected to arise, and an indication of the margins of uncertainty in such estimates.

  • What are your views on whether the FM adequately identifies the financial implications of the Bill?  


The closing date for responses was Friday 9 August 2019.

How to submit your evidence 

Please note that in most cases your written submission will be published on the Scottish Parliament’s website and may be quoted in the Committee’s report or in Committee meetings (which are public and broadcast).

If you wish to request that your submission be published without your name, please contact the Clerks at [email protected].

Before making a submission, please read our Privacy Notice about submitting your views to a Committee. This tells you about how we process your personal data.

We welcome written views in English, Gaelic, Scots or any other language.

Written responses should be sent electronically to [email protected] Ideally they should be no more than four sides of A4.

If you cannot submit electronically, you may send in a hard copy written submission. Please send them to: The Finance and Constitution Committee, Room T3.60, Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh EH99 1SP.

What happens next?

The Committee will consider all written evidence received before deciding upon those witnesses from whom it wishes to hear oral evidence in due course.


Should you require alternative formats of this information or further assistance in making a written submission to the Committee, please do not hesitate to contact the clerking team of the Committee via email or by telephone on 0131 348 5215.


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