Another milestone will be passed in Scotland's long and winding road to its independence referendum, when the Scottish Government's consultation on the process ends today.
It is encouraging that approaching 20,000 individuals and organisations have had their say. This testifies to the depth of public interest in the independence debate. Politically, these are indeed stirring times.
The results of this exercise should provide a useful pointer to Scottish public opinion on some of the central issues surrounding the poll. However, as with the UK Government's consultation, the findings should be treated with care.
On the issue of timing, there can be little argument. That should be the Scottish Government's choice and autumn 2014 is the right one. Given the potentially momentous consequences, proper time for a thorough debate is essential. (If Alex Salmond had announced an earlier poll, many of those currently demanding one probably would have cried foul.)
The Scottish Government is also right to consider the option of Saturday voting, if that is likely to increase the turnout.
There is now broad agreement that the whole process should be overseen by the Electoral Commission. That should extend to reviewing the fairness of the question, given that a number of constitutional and polling experts have questioned the neutrality of the Scottish Government's proposed wording. Above all, this process must be perceived on all sides as fair.
The commission should also be consulted on the issue of voting by 16 and 17-year-olds. At present they cannot vote in elections. One-off arrangements for a referendum smack of interested parties opting for the franchise that suits their needs. There is an argument for involving this age group in the democratic process in future but it should be considered separately in our opinion, or a later date.
The biggest and thorniest question concerns the possibility of a second question. The SNP is divided on this issue between those who do not wish to give voters an excuse not to vote for independence and those who want a fall-back if independence is rejected. Politically, it would force the pro-Unionist parties to define their alternatives to independence, potentially dividing the opposition to the SNP's advantage.
However, elections expert Ron Gould and others maintain that it would muddy the waters and produce a result that was very difficult to determine. As well as being fair, this referendum must be clear and unambiguous.
It is time to agree the terms, so that everyone can get on with the vital debate about what independence or staying in the Union would mean for Scots.
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