Wednesday, 9 May 2012
I was touched yesterday while listening to the remarks of Ian Davidson - a Glasgow Labour MP and chair of the Scottish affairs select committee in the House of Commons.
Ian was like a man possessed - out to right a great wrong - and determined to stand up for fair play in a future referendum on whether Scotland should become independent.
Now what had got Ian's knickers in such a terrible twist is the question to be asked in the 2014 referendum - which the Scottish Government believes should go something like this:
"Do you agree that Scotland should become an independent country?"
To which the answer is either Yes or No - presumably.
But this is not good enough for Ian and fellow members of the Scottish affairs select committee - who all believe this is a leading question and therefore likely to tilt the answer - towards Yes rather than No.
Now I was a bit puzzled by the lengths this rather obscure committee had gone to in its effort to rubbish the proposed question - after all a similar question was used by the then Labour government in the referendum used to re-establish the Scottish Parliament in 1999.
So I decided to do a bit of research myself and to see if anyone else asked similarly direct questions - on matters of topical importance - and I found an example relating to the strike ballot held last year by one of the big Labour affiliated public sector unions, Unison.
Now according to its own web site Unison asked members the following question on the ballot paper:
"Are you prepared to take part in industrial action in the form of strike action?"
Again I am presuming that the only possible answers are either Yes or No - otherwise people would be deemed to have spoilt their ballot papers.
'So what's the essential difference between the two questions?' - you might ask.
'None' - I would say.
In which case why is the wrath of the Scottish affairs select committee so selective - why doesn't the committee create a similar 'stushie' about leading questions asked in strike ballots held by trade unions affiliated to the Labour party?
Now I don't know the answer to that question - but if and when I find out - you'll be the first to know, of course.