September 18th 2014 | Scotland

Holyrood Response: With 50 days to go until the referendum, do the public have enough information to decide how to vote?​

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It is a common refrain from undecideds – there is still not enough concrete information to decide how to vote.
 
And with 50 days to go until the most important political decision in Scotland’s history, it is hard to see how that will change for the eleven per cent or so of people still to make up their minds.
 
From the future of the NHS, to currency, to EU membership and defence, the situation is the same. 
 
Depending on which side you ask, accepting or rejecting independence is a gamble.
 
Better Together says that an independent Scotland would struggle to get in the EU. Yes says it would be an automatic member, and that only staying in the union puts that at risk.
 
But the problem then is not too little information. It is that there are too few facts.
 
In some ways this is natural, since neither side actually knows the future, and it in many ways the blizzard of competing information, through which the Scottish public must walk, is a sign of healthy politics.
 
Agreement is for dictatorships and it would be far more worrying if there was complete consensus.
 
But some of the confusion is deliberate, with spinners on both sides aiming to introduce doubt in areas that tug at the emotions of the electorate.
 
The media too has suffered from the lack of clear facts, with Yes campaigners accusing the BBC in particular of leaning to the side of No.
 
This lack of trust in main stream coverage – creating more doubt – has then led to the growth of fiercely partisan blogs.

Wings over Scotland in particular has pioneered an innovative strategy based in fighting perceived media bias through yet more media bias.
  
In the event of a Yes vote, there will need to be serious, lengthy negotiations and this too leads to a lack of clarity.
 
There is no real guide for how these talks will take place and in a game of constitutional poker there is an incentive for both sides to keep their cards to their chests.
 
That process has been going on for over a year, as demonstrated by the fall out over currency, even falling back on the language of poker as Yes accused Better Together of bluff.
 
In this sense there is a tension between the public interest – getting as much information as possible in order to make an informed decision – and state interest, which is based in withholding that information in order to gain an advantage.

Once the dust settles post September, and the voices begin to calm down it will be interesting to examine the veracity of the claims made by whichever side is given the chance to put its theory to practice.  

Until that happens, many undecideds will be wishing they could hedge their bets.