Calls for new approach to informing the public in advance of any future referendums


Professor Graeme Roy, Director of the Fraser of Allander Institute, will deliver the Sir Alexander Stone memorial lecture this evening at the University of Strathclyde.

In his lecture he will discuss some of the unanswered questions around Brexit, including on trade and the implications for the devolved settlement.

Professor Roy will also discuss the prospects for a second independence referendum and reflect upon the extent to which the economy would feature as heavily as it did back in 2014.

He will highlight areas where a future debate may look quite different, not just in relation to Europe but on borders, oil and gas, currency and migration.

Given the experience of 2014 – and 2016 – Professor Roy will argue that we need to re-think the way we help the public access the facts and information that they need to support them in making difficult and challenging decisions.

In a future independence referendum, he will argue, we will not be able to rely upon either government to provide the evidence and factual information people require.

The nature of a simple ‘yes/no’ referendum – and the political context in which they take place – cuts across the provision of impartial fact and insight.

Governments are not neutral in referendums. There is little room for subtlety.

All this shapes the way in which evidence is framed, interpreted, presented, and even what is released.

This has consequences not just for a referendum debate but long-term trust in institutions and statistics, and the wider consequences for society after any vote.

Professor Roy will argue that, should there be a second independence referendum, serious consideration is needed to rethink how people are able to access the information they require and who provides it.

He will argue that there are no easy solutions to this challenge. But one option could be to create a new independent body – accountable to both Parliaments, staffed by public servants and supported by a group of respected individuals from across the political spectrum and those with no affiliation – which had the sole purpose of providing facts, figures and information to support the public to make an informed decision.

For full text of this lecture, see

Published: 6 November 2019

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