Wednesday, 8 June 2011

One referendum, two referendums, three referendums, four...

One potato,
Two potatoes,
Three potatoes,

Five potatoes,
Six potatoes,
Seven potatoes,

The old children's rhyme springs to mind at the Scottish Secratary's announcement that he wants two referendums on independence. One, from Holyrood, would be "advisory", and the other, from Westminster would be decisive or "binding" as they call it. The justification for this position is that Westminster has the reserved power on referendums, and that any binding referendum would have to originate from there. While Holyrood could ask the question, no-one would be legally bound by the answer.

All very well, but it ignores the politics. If the result is decisive (say above 60% in favour of independence) of those who voted, the "binding" refrendum, while legally justifiable would be just a waste of time. The same people who voted would vote the same way again, with maybe even some who felt enraged at being asked to vote again changing their vote the second time.

IMO, the way round this is obvious and sensible: you cannot change the constitution of any organisation (golf club, drama group, whatever) without a solid majority in favour. A 51% vote in favour of change leaves just too many supporters of the status quo feeling denied and frustrated. You have to demonstrate a solid majority if you want to take everyone with you. Freqently in these cases a two-thirds majority is needed to bring about radical change.

The solution is that any referendum which is considered as binding should have a built-in threshold: two-thirds of those who vote, or 50% of the registered electorate, or some number, must vote in favour of the change. That would help to ensure that the defeated side is convinced of the suppport for, and goes along with, the proposed change.

There should also be a condition in any accompanying legislation that, if the "independence" side loses, the vote will not be repeated for a long period of time, say 25 years. Scottish and UK politics has been dogged for too long by constitutional issues. If the Nats lose their referendum they shoud show some respect to the people and call it a day. Normal politics is, or should be, about schools and houses and jobs, not about constant worrying over constitutional details.


  1. What a total idiot you are.

    This is the 40% rule writ large and will be completely unacceptable. You don't know the meaning of the word democracy, and I think you would find that your intended gerrymandering would be given the red card by the UN

  2. Hello anonymous.

    Calling people idiots doesn't make your case .
    Please try to address the argument if you can.

    If you cannot, at least be polite...

  3. 50% + 1 vote and independence will be declared.

    All this fussing about with this and that size of majority is poppycock.

    Having said that, if the vote is a YES vote than there probably will be a sizeable majority anyway.

    It will hurt for you to be on the wrong side of history.

  4. I see you haven't posted for a while, you must be busy looking fot alternative employment options due to the upcoming council elections.

  5. Hello Stevie.

    ....and it only took you just under two months to think up that clever riposte.

    Are you sure you're a Nat. They're usually a lot slower than that...


  6. Hope you don't lose your job on a personal level - on a political level our goals are opposed.

    Good luck in May on a personal level but not the other of course.

    Hope we win but hate to see people lose their jobs - still, that's the carousel of politics.

    One day they love you and you have a good night, another day they don't and you have a bad night.

    Good luck anyway.

  7. Well thanks.

    The psephologists think I've got a chance....

    but the people will decide