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It is a question of informed choices

What will it mean for my family?

Will we pay higher taxes, or lower? Will public services benefit, or suffer?

Questions, questions: there are so many questions about how the independence vote will affect Scotland, but voters still feel they are short on answers. Today's survey by the Law Society Scotland underlines how poorly informed Scots feel about the referendum, which presents a challenge to both camps. Perhaps the most striking finding in the survey was that two-thirds said they found it difficult to decide whether they could believe the information they were given. This reflects, in part, a generalised mistrust of politicians of all stripes. But, with the independence referendum, Scotland is also entering uncharted political waters. The SNP are fated to deal in "best-case scenarios" for how Scotland might look after independence, but voters are too sceptical to take those optimistic assertions on face value.

At the same time, voters urgently need more information from the pro-Union parties about how devolution might change after a No vote. The Deputy First Minister was somewhat disingenuous earlier this week in calling upon pro-UK umbrella body Better Together to respond to the SNP Government's White Paper on independence with its own competing vision: after all, the White Paper was the SNP's prospectus, not that of the pro-independence umbrella group Yes Scotland. The individual pro-Union parties, who all back further devolution, are rightly developing their own proposals for a post-referendum devolution settlement. Even so, they cannot publish them soon enough. The Liberal Democrats, to their credit, have already declared their hand, promoting a federal UK; Scottish Labour have a commission on the issue which is due to report in the spring; and the Scottish Tories have one that is due to conclude later this year. There is no time to waste.

Ensuring voters make informed choices is not just a matter for politicians, however. The Law Society has rightly called upon business, charities, unions and professional organisations to take a more active role. This can only help: not only are such groups trusted as being less tribal than politicians, they can also add value to the debate: for instance, the Institute of Chartered Accountants Scotland was responsible last year for raising important questions about how cross-border pensions would be funded post independence.

There is another group that must play its part: voters themselves. The Law Society survey found that more than half do not feel the debate is dealing with issues relevant to them. This probably indicates that some Scots find it hard to engage with structural issues such as whether Scotland will be a member of the EU, and are more exercised by questions about how their personal finances will be affected in the short term. That is understandable, but September's big decision has ramifications that go far beyond such immediate concerns and voters have a duty, on behalf not just of themselves but also of future generations, to make an active effort to be informed about the full range of issues.

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