MINISTERS will be able to bypass the Electoral Commission and use the same Yes/No question used in the first independence referendum in a snap indyref2, civil servants have told MSPs.

If the Scottish Government’s Referendums (Scotland) Bill, launched by Nicola Sturgeon last month, gets through Parliament, there could be no need for the elections watchdog to be involved in the process as they approved the question back ahead of the 2014 vote.

Labour warned that this could become a “political issue”.

MSPs on Holyrood’s Finance and Constitutions Committee were scrutinising the legislation yesterday, quizzing the civil servants who had penned it.

Under subsection five, of section three of the Referendum Bill, on the interpretation of referendum questions, the Electoral Commission have to publish a report on the wording and intelligibility of any question.

But subsection seven of the Bill states that this won’t apply if they have previously adjudicated on the question and the choices open to voters.

Labour’s James Kelly asked the Scottish Government civil servants what the policy intention of that was: “Obviously the Electoral Commission ahead of the 2014 independence referendum published a report on the question that was being considered, and that subsection seven could be interpreted that that report stands and in terms of any new independence referendum the Electoral Commission doesn’t have a role in terms of looking at the question or the wording of any statement.”

Penny Curtis, the Government’s Deputy Director Elections, said this was in part about cost.

“The policy intention there is where questions have already been tested, have been used and are familiar to voters and are understandable to voters, is not to put a requirement in there to test again.

“Partly the process of question testing is quite an expensive one, probably in excess of £100,000 to do that, but our main policy intention in there is not to do anything that gets in the way of voter intelligibility around that question.

Kelly pushed on: “In terms of the example I gave about another independence referendum, and the Electoral Commission’s role around the 2014 referendum, would the Electoral Commission be asked again to look at the question and any potential statement?”

Curtis said the framework “wouldn’t require ministers” to “test the question again if they were seeking to use the same question again”.

“I think there’ll be an issue around that.” Kelly said “It’s a political issue.”

In 2015 the Commission ordered the EU referendum be changed from Yes/No to Leave/Remain.