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Scottish Government plan to distribute indyref blueprint in schools is 'taxpayer-funded propaganda'

THE Scottish Government is considering sending copies of its blueprint for independence to every secondary school in the country, it has emerged.

Referendum minister Nicola Sturgeon told MSPs she wanted the Government's white paper, due in November, to be made available to all potential voters, including those in younger age groups.

Her comments sparked claims the Government was planning to distribute taxpayer-funded propaganda in schools.

Ms Sturgeon was addressing Holyrood's Referendum Bill committee, which is scrutinising the legislation paving the way for next year's historic vote.

She promised to consider pleas to place a legal duty on schools to promote the referendum to 16 and 17-year-olds.

She said the Electoral Commission watchdog was responsible for raising awareness.

However, she added: "The main publication that the Government will produce is the White Paper which will be the case for Scotland becoming independent.

"We will, as the Government, try to ensure there is as wide an appreciation and knowledge and understanding of the White Paper as possible.

"We'll be doing our level best to ensure that material is available to all potential voters, including those in younger age groups.

"We'll give consideration to whether there is more we can do to make it more accessible.

"We have not made a final decision."

Government white papers are normally published online with only very limited distribution in hard copy.

LibDem MSP Tavish Scott said: "The Government clearly plan to provide propaganda to every 16 and 17-year-old paid for by Scottish taxpayers.

"Many will wonder why we should be paying for SNP campaign material."

Meanwhile, it emerged the Scottish Greens are considering a bid to change referendum legislation to allow prisoners to vote after Ms Sturgeon again ruled out the move yesterday.

Greens leader Patrick Harvie said: "It's unfortunate the Deputy First Minister resisted giving a reason for refusing to look at this issue.

"There are reasonable arguments for giving the vote to offenders serving very short sentences, as we expect them to return to society.

"The Scottish Greens will consider lodging an amendment to the Referendum Bill so we can at least encourage a debate on this issue. Democratic participation is so important and it would be a real worry if we ignore these kinds of complexities."

Such a move would be unlikely to succeed in the face of opposition from the SNP, Labour and Tories.

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