THE Scottish Government has received another boost to its referendum proposals, with the Electoral Reform Society adding its voice to calls for a "no strings" deal.

The group, which describes itself as "an independent campaigning organisation to champion the rights of voters and improve UK democracy", researched the legislative issues and interviewed experts before coming to the conclusion that the First Minister has the right to call the shots.

It follows an article in The Herald yesterday from constitutional expert Dr Matt Qvortrup.

He stated that the Westminster Government should back off from threatening legal action by the UK Supreme Court.

Dr Qvortrup noted: "Generally speaking, independence is not an issue in which the 'mother country' has a direct say. A country becomes independent when it is recognised by the international community."

He also pointed out that in other such referendums the equivalent of the Electoral Commission did not run the poll, and said legalistic pondering mattered much less than the democratic will of the electorate.

Now the Electoral Reform Society has put its weight behind the legitimacy of the Scottish Government deciding on key issues relating to the referendum, which is proposed for autumn 2014.

The society's Juliet Swann said: "At the Electoral Reform Society Scotland we've spent time poring over legislation, talking to experts, taking on board opinions and mulling over the options that would best respect democracy.

"To that end, we are recommending the Scottish Parliament be provided with a no-strings-attached legal mandate to call a referendum at a time and with a question or questions of their choosing.

"We also believe that the Scottish Electoral Commission is best placed to monitor the referendum, but they should be accountable not to the Westminster Government but to all members of the Scottish Parliament."

Ms Swann, campaigns and research officer at ERS Scotland, added: "The Society supports votes for 16 and 17-year-olds and, given the importance of this vote, we see no reason why this opportunity shouldn't be taken to extend the franchise.

"That said, this should be as a beginning not as a one-off."

However, she dismissed calls for those elsewhere in the UK to be allowed a vote.

She said: "We think the franchise should be the same as for elections to the Scottish Parliament. We appreciate that Scots in England, Wales and elsewhere will be interested in the referendum and keen to participate, but the residency requirement is the one that best reflects democracy.

"As a comparison we would suggest that decisions made by the London mayor affect those who work but do not live in London, visitors to London, and have an impact on the UK more widely, but only residents of London are eligible to vote in the mayoral elections."

An aide to Bruce Crawford, Cabinet Secretary for Parliamentary Business and Government strategy, said last night: "This is a welcome endorsement of the Scottish Government's referendum proposals from an organisation with impeccable credentials when it comes to ensuring fairness and transparency in the democratic process.

"This is Scotland's referendum, and as such it must – as this contribution from the Electoral Reform Society Scotland makes clear – have a clear line of accountability to the Scottish Parliament and not be subject to any strings being attached from elsewhere."

The two new interventions in the constitutional debate delighted the SNP yesterday.

Linda Fabiani, who was convener of the Scotland Bill committee, said: "I welcome Dr Qvortrup's analysis: let it be a warning to the anti-independence parties that the scaremongering and hollow threats must end now.

"The SNP's overwhelming victory at last year's Scottish Parliamentary elections granted a mandate for the Scottish Government to hold a referendum on Scotland's future. Westminster politicians with their blundering attempts to dictate the legality of Scotland's referendum will only drive the people of Scotland further away from the flagging anti-independence camp.

"The constitutional future of Scotland will be decided by the people of Scotland at the referendum in 2014, not by Lord Wallace or any court."