Referendum Bill Committee

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The deputy first minister told MSPs a 28 day pre-election (purdah) period was the 'right balance' before the independence referendum, on Thursday 13 June 2013.

Nicola Sturgeon was giving evidence to the Referendum Bill Committee which was scrutinising the Scottish Independence Referendum Bill at stage one.

The referendum vote will take place on 18 September 2014 and the question will be "Should Scotland be an independent country?"

Ms Sturgeon told the committee a 28 day purdah was appropriate because a pre-election period which extended any longer "would interfere with the day to day business of government".

She insisted there was no need for the bill to impose purdah earlier to prevent inappropriate behaviour because "the public price of doing that operates as a constraint as well."

SNP MSP Stewart Maxwell raised the subject of turnout and asked what planning was in place for a higher than normal turnout.

Ms Sturgeon said discussions were taking place with the chief counting officer and while estimates of 70 to 80% had been discussed it was "reasonable to hope turnout would be even higher than that."

She also made clear planning was in the context of overnight counts not next day ones.

The issue of 16 and 17 year old children of service personnel, permitted participants and legal challenges were raised.

"It is essential the result of the referendum is beyond reproach", the deputy first minister said.

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