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  By a Newsnet reporter

Literature circulated by official campaign groups representing both sides in the independence referendum will not be monitored for factual accuracy.

The Electoral Commission has confirmed that in keeping with its current responsibilities, it will not be seeking to extend its remit to include checking leaflets and other literature for accuracy and honesty.

Speaking to Newsnet Scotland, a spokesperson explained that it was the Commission's view that voters should decide the merit or otherwise of claims made in literature circulated by both the Yes and No camps and that to try to police content could undermine the Electoral Commission's impartiality.

"The Commission is an independent body tasked with regulating the rules on campaign spending, donations and loans at the referendum.  However, we do not have a remit to regulate the accuracy of the content of political campaign communications and materials, whether at referendums or elections." A spokesperson told Newsnet Scotland.

Asked, given the significance of the independence referendum, whether the Commission believed it should seek an extension to its remit to include campaign literature, the spokesperson added: "We do not think that any role in policing the truthfulness of referendum campaign arguments would be appropriate for the Commission.  It would be very likely to draw the Commission into political debate, significantly affecting the perception of our independent role."

Confirmation that both sides will be able to publish free from official scrutiny will dismay many in the Yes camp.  Last weekend it emerged that the official No campaign were handing out leaflets which contained false claims relating the views of the Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney.

Mr Carney had visited Scotland days before, and in a speech on a possible currency union had made it clear he would not be passing judgement on the currency plans of either the Edinburgh based Government or the London based Government.

He said: "What follows is not an assessment of whether Scotland will be overall better or worse off under independence – that is a multi-faceted judgement for the Scottish people.  It does not pass judgement on the relative merits of the different currency options for an independent Scotland,"

However, despite the clear statement from the Bank of England Chief, within days of the speech the Better Together campaign were circulating leaflets which claimed Mr Carney had attacked the currency plans of Alex Salmond.

The leaflet said: "With experts, including the Governor of the Bank of England, criticising Alex Salmond's claim that we would keep the pound after independence, it is increasingly clear that if we leave the UK we would lose the UK pound."

Asked to comment on the claims contained in the leaflet, a spokesman for the bank of England said pointedly of Mr Carney’s statement: "These remarks are on the public record and speak for themselves."

There is growing concern amongst many pro-independence campaigners over the number of false claims being made by the official No campaign and other leading anti-independence figures.

Last year the Better Together campaign continued to circulate leaflets boasting about the UK's triple-A credit rating, despite agencies having downgraded the rating due to worries over the UK's growing debt problem.

Other episodes have witnessed head of Better Together Alistair Darling deny ever having said that a currency agreement between the rest of the UK and a newly independent Scotland was in the interests of both sides, despite having been filmed saying so on the BBC.

Last week, Newsnet Scotland revealed that claims about the Norwegian Oil Fund made by Better Together campaign co-ordinator Blair McDougall had been rubbished by the Norwegian Finance Department.

McDougall told listeners to a radio phone in programme that: "Norway affords paying into its oil fund because it has much, much higher taxes than we have here in Scotland."

However Mr McDougall's claim that higher taxes were needed in order to establish a fund were dismissed by the Norwegian Ministry of Finance.

A spokesman said: "According to OECD data Norway has higher total tax revenue as a percentage of GDP than does the United Kingdom. See http://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx?DataSetCode=REV

"Norway has a system where all petroleum (oil and gas) revenues are transferred to the Government Pension Fund Global, irrespective of total Government revenue.  Every year, the Norwegian parliament approves a budget which states how much should be transferred from the Fund over the budget.

"Over time we expect this number to be around 4% of the Fund value – irrespective of the size of Norway's total budget revenue.  This is reflected in the so called Fiscal Policy Rule."

Comments  

 
# argyll6 2014-02-06 07:31
This now opens the door for endless scaremongering and misrepresentati on, This is not the right way forward, all literature from both sides has to be checked for honesty and accuracy or it will turn out to be a sham.
 
 
# Henderson 2014-02-06 09:12
Could Newsnet Scotland check with Sir Tom Hunters new impartial website ?

Perhaps they could review & comment on material submitted by the public / undecided voters ?
 
 
# pomatiaH1 2014-02-06 09:23
Some of the big problems in this, is that when even the person being misquoted does not effectively put right the misinformation, or publicly counter information, then it damages their standing too.
It also damages the whole credibility of debate. Little wonder that people switched of to politics, as seen in low turnouts for elections.
Misinformation needs to be strongly countered, not only by those in the debate, any debate, but by those who are supposedly being quoted.
 
 
# tartanfever 2014-02-06 10:00
The stitch up begins...

BT now have licence to print what they want. Complaints from 'Yes' will be ignored as usual, and the shocking tactics of labour in the recent Fife elections will continue.

A bad day for democracy.
 
 
# Legerwood 2014-02-06 10:00
I see that Newsnight Scotland is to be scrapped and replaced with a half hour early evening news programme in lead up to referendum. All female reporting staff fronted by Sarah Smith.
 
 
# X_Sticks 2014-02-06 10:27
They're trying to catch the female vote as they think it's soft.

Sarah Smith is the anchor. She has a cast-iron Labour Party pedigree. I will reserve judgement until we see, but she is highly regarded by John Boothman, so I don't hold out much hope of impartiality being improved at BBC Scotland.
 
 
# Legerwood 2014-02-06 11:29
I regularly watch CH4 news and in the main like Sarah Smith as a reporter but, but not sure about her impartiality in political arena especially where Scottish matters are concerned. I remember her covering a fairly recent by-election in Glasgow. The candidate -snp I think- had just spoken to a householder and when he left she then went to speak to them and basically put the labour line so not impartial. But lets wait and see.
 
 
# Breeks 2014-02-06 12:10
I think she's the daughter of John Smith, the Labour Leader, but in fairness she seems very professional on Channel 4, but as X-Sticks says, it's hard to ignore the cast-ron Labour pedigree. I seem to recall her doing CH4 reports from Washington - US Correspondent???

Seems our media is awash with political types, and especially Labour.
 
 
# gus1940 2014-02-06 14:14
She may be fair and professional on Ch4 but that does not mean that will continue when she has to take orders from Boothman and his Project Fear lackeys at Pathetic Quay.
 
 
# X_Sticks 2014-02-06 10:05
Lies, misinformation and the spreading of fear and uncertainty are ALL that Better Together have to work with.

There is NO positive case for the union. Any jam tomorrow promises that are made will be more lies.

Given that westminster has still to impose at lease 50% of it's austerity program how can they possibly give any more to Scotland.

Be under no illusion, if we vote No Scotland will be decimated along with the rest of the UK. Only the London elite will survive unscathed.
 
 
# Breeks 2014-02-06 10:29
Scotland requires its own digital TV channel beyond the reach of the BBC.

YES is depending on sites like NNS and Wings to carry the fight to the Unionists, (No criticism intended - I know YES is winning on the doorsteps), but imagine the equivalent presence of all three on a digital TV channel.

If our government had demanded this a year or two ago, then circumstances might be entirely different, and the tone and quality of debate infinitely superior.

We contribute over £30million to the BBC, and we should DEMAND our Scottish 6 Digital News Channel, and accept nothing less.

We have the evidence to document the failures of the BBC, we have the BBC trust acknowledging failures of impartiality, and we have an Electoral Commission ducking the responsibilitie s of the Edinburgh Agreement.
With respect, and a semi-competent concerted campaign from our Government, I would suggest it may be an impossible issue to resist.
 
 
# bigbuachaille 2014-02-06 10:35
The EC has no control over electoral literature, just as it has little to offer in the monitoring of postal votes.
There is considerable historical evidence which confirms widespread electoral fraud in UK elections.
Craig Murray has given numerous examples.
Here are two: theguardian.com/.../...
craigmurray.org.uk/.../...
In the second of these articles, postal votes outnumbered votes cast in the ballot box.
There is a real danger to democracy in our referendum from postal vote fraud.
The Electoral Commission should be freed from its advisory role to monitor both postal voting and the veracity of all electoral literature. If the Commission is not up to the task, then the Scottish Government should engage independent international observers to ensure the public are not hoodwinked.
 
 
# theycantbeserious 2014-02-06 10:48
Electoral Commission appears not to be fit for purpose. Where does the independence movement go now to try and get some impartiality into the debate? It is obvious all sections of the state media and now the commission have been "bought and sold for English gold" with promises of jam tomorrow.

Where do we turn now...Europe? Or as breeks suggested a digital channel free from bbc intimidation? How do we set this up? I have no doubt that it will be funded by ourselves without question but how and when? Has anyone expertise in this area?
 
 
# Marga B 2014-02-06 10:56
Also in the Edinburgh Agreement it says:

13. The Electoral Commission was also given responsibility for promoting public awareness for voters in the 2011 Welsh and UK referendums.

14. Both governments agree that the Electoral Commission should fulfil all these functions in respect of the independence referendum,

16. Both governments agree on the importance of ensuring that the referendum campaign is subject to regulation that ensures that the referendum is fair and commands the confidence of both sides of the debate.

Ensuring impartiality of broadcasters

21. The governments agree that it will be important to ensure that broadcast coverage of the Referendum is impartial. Broadcasters, Ofcom and the Electoral Commission will discuss the best way to achieve this.

Is this being complied with?
 
 
# BRL 2014-02-06 20:21
Marga B - I don't think the Electoral Commission is fulfilling the requirements of the Edinburgh Agreement.

As well as your referred clauses; 13,14,16 and 21 there is a central function to ensure that contributions to YES and NO are within the boundaries agreed, yet the £500,000 to Better Together from Ian Taylor of Vitol plc., is one of three large donations amounting to £686,000 from donors 'outside Scotland'. Why hasn't the Electoral Commission moved on this abuse?

As for mis-truths on campaign leaflets, if the Electoral Commission was to move on these, it would also have to shut down all of the MSM and the BBC.
 
 
# Breeks 2014-02-06 11:22
Isn't there another Holyrood Culture Committee soon where the BBC is to be asked questions about Dr Roberston's report?

Let's hope we have some pitbulls on that committee who won't be brushed off, and secure some meaningful commitments which can make a difference.

We are running out of time - not to win, but win handsomely with all our people engaged and properly convinced that voting YES is best possible thing they can do.

Scottish 6 Digital Channel - NOW!!!
 
 
# call me dave 2014-02-06 12:58
Sadly unlike a normal family sometimes you learn not to trust or rely on auntie. There will be no attempt to mitigate the bias in the BBC, it has been hard at work for all of it's life to anglicise all the countries in the UK.

Bias has been exposed, omission of credible pro independence stories are obvious on a daily basis. We just have to get on with it and win.

Here's a good positive read to go with your tattie scone, buttered on the best of both sides and jam tomorrow of course.
...................

As the political heat increases in the UK over Scotland's independence referendum, Scottish playwright Peter Arnott takes an impassioned look at the issues involved.

archive.is/Hr1xP

Update:
Some new news is good news

archive.is/lkl6l
 
 
# Dundonian West 2014-02-06 14:12
OT.Alex Massie in the Spectator is frightened "Alex Salmond" may win the Referendum!
"Yes Scotland’ groups have sprung up in almost every small town in the land. Every night, somewhere in Scotland, nationalists meet to plot their strategy — with a morale and determination not to be found among the grassroots of any Westminster party.
Last week, for example, the second issue of a nationalist propaganda newspaper — imaginatively called YES — was delivered to thousands of households."
Mr Massie is a journalist.
spectator.co.uk/.../...
 
 
# gerrydotp 2014-02-06 15:38
You would think any decent journalist would know the difference between strategy, and tactics.
 
 
# gus1940 2014-02-06 17:28
I understand that the Ayr Chapter of Project Fear held an Activists Meeting earlier this week.

Secret Agents were posted outside the supposed secret location to count the assembled host.

Apparently the count was 3 yes three.
 
 
# call me dave 2014-02-06 17:50
Aye, I was on the Dundee YES site, same story when it comes to who's turning out for the two sides.

Note: Labour councillors carrying out Cameron's bidding, who would have thought!

Have a keek who's winning. Click the news link when in.

www.yesdundee.net/
 
 
# Massan_Gow 2014-02-06 18:59
This is nothing short of a disgrace.

A democracy should not have a campaign where false information (or lies) can be peddled to voters without redress.

Shows that we are only a 'democracy' in name.
 
 
# call me dave 2014-02-06 22:30
Better together and labour have lost the plot. Most of the comments agree.

archive.is/631fp
 
 
# X_Sticks 2014-02-06 23:48
A couple of good and fair articles by Massie in the Spectator. I think his visit up here last week for the debate has really opened his eyes to what is really happening in Scotland.

The comments on both articles are very interesting - all kudos to the cybernats for restraint in the face of some astonishing ignorance.
 
 
# gus1940 2014-02-08 08:36
Given the suspicions regarding electoral fraud re postal voting in past elections I am naturally suspicious as to what might happen on 18/9 with postal votes.

I have further concerns which somebody out there may be able to answer.

In spite of having bought a flat in Edinburgh Alan Cumming was told he could not vote in The Referendum as his principal residence was outwith Scotland.

There are probably thousands of holiday homes in Scotland and many of their owners' principal residences are outwith Scotland

Will these owners and their families be excluded from the vote in the same way as Cumming and if so what measures are being taken to ensure that they are excluded?

Furthermore, what is to stop those who have relatives living outwith Scotland putting said relatives on the electoral roll and then applying for postal votes for said individuals?
 
 
# Breeks 2014-02-08 09:50
Can anyone explain the mechanism of postal vote fraud? How is it coordinated? Is it fraud or physical mobilization of people to get old folks who wouldn'd vote organised to do it by post? If we don't know how it works, how can it be policed?
 

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