Later this year some Scottish people and quite a few non Scots will decide whether or not to end the union that began with the Act of Union in 1707. Yet for such a significant step the processes and rules that have been or are being enabled to allow this to happen are very peculiar indeed.
Also odd is the premise on which the agreement of the voters is being sought. For such a potentially momentous and irreversible act one might have thought a little more care and attention would have been applied.
Probably the strangest aspect of this referendum is the fact that it will be decided upon by a simple majority. This means that theoretically a single vote could isolate Scotland indefinitely, whereas one might expect that to change a state of being that has worked successfully for over 300 years on the unfounded and unsupported promises of a few politicians with heavily vested interests would require a clear and unequivocal statement from the populace.
Simply speaking Scotland could make the biggest decision it has ever been asked to make based on a counting error. Of course, include within that all the irregularities a national vote might attract, including deliberate fraud and hey presto an independent Scotland with sleight of hand. Of course the same applies to a no vote but such an outcome doesn’t preclude a future vote at some time and more importantly doesn’t require a leap in the dark.
Also, and because this is such a big decision, it is peculiar that well over 25% of Scottish nationals will not have a say in this referendum whereas almost half a million non Scots will. Just because a Scottish national currently works in England that shouldn’t automatically remove their right to vote on the future of Scotland. With family perhaps still in a Scotland and a return home eminently possible one might reasonably think these people should also be consulted.
However the SNP with its typical dismissal of inconvenient truths know this all too well and have calculated that their odds are improved by excluding nationals working elsewhere as they are more likely to see through the emotional rhetoric of Scotland for the Scots.
At this point I really have to point out that the UK together with Scotland have umbilical and long lasting ties and that the union as a whole has been an unqualified social and economic success, whereas the UK and the European Union have had a fractious relationship for a handful of years and the EU as a whole is an economic disaster area. If it doesn’t work you get out and if is does you stay in but, that doesn’t suit the ambitions of the ‘King’ in waiting.
The other oddity, though not from the SNP’s perspective, is the inclusion of 16 year olds in the voting mix. There are possibly around 120,000 16 and 17 year olds who may vote and in a close run thing any extra vote will be helpful to the ‘yes’ campaign.
To see why we have to be very clear that this is not a decision that will be illuminated by factual information. Addressing material questions doesn’t form part of the SNP’s approach.
Unlike the EU and UK question the UK can point to hundreds of years as a hugely successful nation punching well above its weight in any and all circumstances that have prevailed over the period so questions about a future out of the EU succours reassurance from a history of independent success. It is quite the opposite for Scotland as any success it has experienced has been as a very much smaller partner in this mutually beneficial relationship.
The future of Scotland according to the SNP is a utopia of riches and public services for all beyond their wildest dreams. However, with many high profile assertions being punctured the emotional aspect of this decision is gaining ground. Scotland for the Scots, we don’t want to be ruled by England, you know the sort of thing. Parading patriotism (whilst conveniently forgetting that in the last government both the Chancellor and Prime Minister were Scots) in place of rationality the rhetoric continues.
The SNP have probably calculated that 16 and 17 year olds are more likely to be influenced by the emotional aspects of the argument and I’m sure they are right. After all if I wanted to ‘legally’ fix an election with a huge patriotic element I would exclude the rational and include the emotional as much as I possibly could. What is odd is that this manoeuvring has succeeded almost as if the British Government actually wanted an independent Scottish nation as much as the SNP does.
It would certainly solve a few perennial problems such as the Midlothian question and get rid of 41 Labour Mp’s and 11 Liberal Democrats, give or take, so perhaps not such a bad idea after all? (At this point and on the question of 16 year olds voting, try asking one what the Midlothian question relates to. If that’s too difficult go for an answer on a political cabinet and give marks for anything that excludes furniture). It would also end forever the Barnett formula and the unfair nature of that to the English nation.
However, I digress.
The point of this comment is that big decisions should be clear cut and involve all concerned but that isn’t going to happen. Were a 60% majority to have been required that would have demonstrated clear intent and override many of the concerns I’ve mentioned here.
One might think it would be essential to clarify what happens to a million or so Scots who suddenly become non Europeans and therefore aliens overnight. Will they need work permits? What currency will Scotland have? Will all Scottish military personnel in English forces be dismissed? Who will defend Scotland? Will the oil remain in joint ownership? Will Scotland be required to repay its national debt from new Scottish borrowing?
The questions are innumerable but answers are few. When you are joined at the hip separation is always more complex and painful that imagined.
Watch out for free copies of Braveheart for the undecided a little nearer the time.