Designated campaigns for an independence referendum

Oct 15, 2012

Something caught my eye in the draft section 30 order to empower the Scottish Parliament to pass legislation on an independence referendum:

[4 (2)] In those provisions as applied by this article, references, however expressed, to a person or body designated under section 108 [of Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000] are to be read as references to a person or body designated under an Act of the Scottish Parliament for the purposes of an independence referendum as representing those campaigning for a particular outcome in relation to the question in the referendum.

This in interesting because section 108 gives the power to appoint designated campaigns (who gain certain financial assistance, access to broadcast and freepost) to the Electoral Commission - instead this is indicating the Scottish Parliament will have the ability to directly designate campaigns for the respective sides. As there's yet to be a case where there was serious competition between two groups for the same designated status this seem relatively harmless, although technically this would also allow one campaign to be designated without the other (seems unlikely). The Scottish Parliament could of course pass this back to the Electoral Commission when they come to legislate.

Update: The memorandum of agreement seems to be stating that the Electoral Commission should retain its role of 'designating lead campaign organisations' which makes the above curious. I suspect in the grand scheme of things it's doing absolutely nothing, but I'm just not sure why it's there at all.

4.1 (a) in the s 30 order directly refers to s 127 of PPERA, which includes:

A broadcaster shall not include in its broadcasting services any referendum campaign broadcast made on behalf of any person or body other than one designated in respect of the referendum in question under section 108.

 And I'm wondering if 4.2 is then just being over cautious in relation to this. If the Electoral Commission retains its designation powers, those groups will be designated by s 108 and be counted under that anyway. If that's the explanation, then 4.2 isn't needed at all and is actually transferring more than they intended to the Scottish Parliament, allowing it to designate extra groups that could make election broadcasts and mailshots (not a hugely useful power but hey).

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