RECENT referendums held in Scotland and the UK have brought traditional forms of political decision-making and representation into question, producing “a shift in our democracy that we cannot ignore” ... and an event tomorrow will discuss if, when and how they should be used.

Titled Democracy in Action? The Place of Referendums in Scotland and the UK, the public discussion is being hosted in Glasgow by political think-tank the Centre for Scottish Public Policy (CSPP), in partnership with the Democratic Society and law firm Brodies LLP.

It will include contributions from Rachel Ormston, associate director of the polling firm Ipsos Mori; Alistair Stoddart, a policy expert from the Democratic Society; and Charles Livingstone, a partner in Brodies.

It will examine the role of referendums and explore the legal uncertainty surrounding their use in Scotland and the UK.

Voters were called upon to settle far-reaching legislative issues in 2014 and last year – Scotland’s constitutional future and the UK’s relationship with the European Union – and the discussion will examine the issues this raised for democracy and the type of political participation enabled by referendums.

Professor Richard Kerley, CSPP co-chair, said: “The CSPP has been engaged in debates about Scottish politics for many years, and we believe the emergence of various referendums has produced a shift in our democracy that we cannot ignore.

“This discussion will enable citizens to ask essential questions, namely: what happens when complex decisions are left in the hands of voters by politicians, and what rules should our society discuss and possibly establish, to ensure that referendums are organised and their results implemented in a democratic manner?”

Stoddart said: “Referendums have dominated our democracy over the last few years. Have they contributed to encouraging a more politically engaged public? Or have they made our politics binary and confrontational?”

Ormston added: “In principle, the British public likes the idea of being more directly involved in taking important political decisions.

“Yet exposure to recent referendums has not necessarily increased our enthusiasm for them, while there remain questions over how well informed we feel in practice about the issues recent votes have been used to determine.”

Meanwhile. the Electoral Commission has said efforts to reach 16- and 17-year-olds with information on registration and voting appear to be paying off in a year in which they were able to vote in council elections for the first time.

But its report on the administration of the elections warned that these “new voters” have high expectations of further automation of the registration process. It said the teenagers found it easier to access information about casting their votes than those aged between 18 and 34 (84 per cent compared to 69 per cent).

Only seven per cent of 16-17 year-olds said it was difficult to complete their ballot paper, compared to 16 per cent of the elder group.

The report also found that this younger age group backed further reforms to the electoral registration process, with nearly three-quarters (74 per cent) of those aged 16 and 17 believing people should be automatically added to the electoral register when they receive their National Insurance number.

Sue Bruce, the Electoral Commissioner for Scotland, said: “More than any other group, young people expect from their public services the same efficiency and streamlined processes that they experience elsewhere. Electoral processes need to keep pace.”