Tuesday, 8 May 2012

The Question

Less than a week after the local elections, the Referendum raise its head yet again. This time from the voice of the Scottish Affairs Committee at Westmister.

They have described the Referendum question suggested by the Scottish Government as "biased", with much wailing and gnashing of teeth from some nationalists.

Just in case you weren't aware of the question, here it is:

"Do you agree that Scotland should become an independent country?"

That is what is correctly described as leading question, which for clarity is a question where the person asking the question suggests the answer he/she is looking for.

In other words, bias.

The Committee is absolutely correct. I don't know who came up with that question, but I suspect someone with a journalistic background. Only journalists tend to use leading questions in a professional capacity. Employers certainly cannot use them when interviewing candidates, and nor do I suspect can the police. From my own experience in interviewing and assessing interviewers, I would never allow such a question to be used.

That question above is asking for an opinion, not a definitive answer. It's a bit like asking someone if they agree that cod liver oil tastes disgusting, rather than asking them if they want to try some.

No doubts the arguments will rage on and on, with the Scottish Government accusing Westminster of interfering. But they have brought the criticism upon themselves with such a blatant leading, almost loaded, question.

The question has to be phrased in a similar was as follows:

"Do you want Scotland to be an independent country?"

Closed question requiring a simple yes or no answer. No bias, no hints, no leading words or phrases.

If the Scottish Government decide to use their question, then there is a good chance that Westminster will simply ignore the result, with arguments no doubt reaching the courts.

It should also be asked why the Scottish Government want to use a leading question. Could it be they are afraid of the result, or are they simply trying to manipulate the results by adding this question to their desire for 16 and 17 year olds to get the vote as well?

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