Avoiding a politicians fix – more powers should be on the ballot

Electoral Reform Society,

Posted on the 21st September 2012

Most people think it would be a good idea if the Governments in Westminster and Edinburgh could agree on the form of the Referendum on Scottish Independence. It would probably save all sorts of legal wrangling and ‘lawyer lottery’ winners if consensus could be found.

Recently the political runes have started to be read a certain way. It seems that First Minister Alex Salmond and PM David Cameron are close to doing a deal on the format of the Independence Referendum. It has been suggested that Mr Salmond will accept a single Yes/No question on independence in return for allowing 16 and 17 year olds the vote. Reports of this week’s meeting between the two leaders state that it will all be decided by 22nd of next month.

The situation is not looking good for democracy. The last thing we need here is a politicians’ fix. The Prime Minister wants no change and the First Minister wants independence, meanwhile all the reputable polls show that most Scots want neither one of these. A greater number of Scots want more power short of full independence and a refusal to give them the option to vote for this will disenfranchise a huge swathe of voters.

In every reputable poll since 1999 more powers has almost always been the most favoured option with two most recent Polls in June by IPSOS Mori and a face to face survey by TNS showing more powers on around 40 points and ‘Independence’ and ‘Status Quo’ at best in the high 20s. It all seems a little surreal when the politicians want to fight over something that many Scots don’t want but refuse to discuss something they might.

After every election we are subject to lots of politicians handwringing about why people don’t vote or don’t engage in politics. This shows the reality is that politics is disengaging from the people and not the other way around.

Some dodgy reasoning has been given for not including a second question on more powers. “The result would not be clear” or “That the result would be difficult to interpret”.

This is nonsense if the questions are structured properly with a gateway question as detailed in the evidence we submitted to both government consultations. Both power blocks on either side of the contest have their own reasons for excluding the people’s preferred option.

For Salmond it that his own party thinks they can convince the ‘more power’ voters to opt for full independence in an all or nothing vote. The Unionists think a No vote will crush the SNP and return Scotland to the old ruling order.

The politicians are stuck in an argument of the past.

The people have moved on some time ago. If they are not careful Scotland will become a huge empty debating chamber with a few politicians shouting at each other across the echoing space, arguing on how they can fix it so their particular clique can rule.

Meanwhile, the audience will have lost interest, and shaking their heads in disappointment will have made for home.

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