Two referendums: a different perspective

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by Hazel Lewry

The waters of Scottish self determination were recently tested with a two referendums proposal.  The proposal as originally voiced might well be ludicrous, but the principle certainly is not.

Referendums and polls are the cornerstones of democracy.

An initial referendum could be used to clear the air and better define what our people will be voting for in the latter part of this governmental term.

A large part of the issue for many, particularly the more naturally conservative (small c) amongst us, is that they feel rather like they are being asked to step off a cliff, but that no one will tell them accurately how high that cliff really is.  All these people feel they get is conflicting information.

The SNP argument is that it’s just a natural step to take.  The Unionists argue it’s a chasm.  The conservative voter, for the most part, will not step.  That is a fundamental definition of conservatism.

The reality is that the Union argument is more fear and scare tactics, but these will often work with the more conservative voter.  Inertia in people is much the same as inertia in objects, as the body in motion will tend to stay in motion, the old thought process and habits will continue without a good reason, or a “safe” way to ensure change.

The gradualist approach has worked well to win confidence and sway some voters who are more conservative in their habits, but a great many more remain to be won.

With a defined timeframe and the clock ticking, timing itself may be more of a friend to the Union than to those independent thinkers amongst us.  Too long a time will give Scots an opportunity to adjust to austerity; too short will lessen the impact of these Westminster policies.  Just right could create a severe swing.

The Scottish government should therefore engineer a policy and issue clear unambiguous statements about Scotland’s national and international future post-referendum.

The Scottish government should also pass legislation to require referendums on any major constitutional or territorial issues, nullifying any alterations made without such a referendum since the inception of the act of Union.  Such an act would clarify many things, perhaps most fundamentally that this Holyrood will not be Westminster, version two.

Most importantly, in all fundamental areas it should let the people decide.  Empowering the people can only inspire confidence and self reliance.  Two states that the Union and its supporters with their “too wee, too small” arguments apparently see as an anathema.

It is difficult to make a believable argument that an individual is incapable of an act when they are used to doing it – telling Scots they are unable to assert themselves whilst they are doing just that could well prove an exercise in futility.  Perhaps this has been an unforeseen consequence of Holyrood on the part of Westminster.

In principle it therefore seems an excellent idea to hold dual referendums, perhaps the first being at the upcoming council elections, and then any issues of constitutional significance could be incorporated into scheduled future polls at little additional expense.

The initial referendum wouldn’t contain the simple two part yes/no type question Westminster wants, we just can’t seem to get away from the three part question.  This extra referendum doesn’t have the question we’re all getting ready for or that London had in mind with the original “two referendums” proposal.

It can be strongly argued that a dual referendum certainly should occur, the subordinate poll with two separate questions that Westminster assuredly prefers are never asked.  It should both help to empower the Scots people and shine a light into areas where the Union and the EU would perhaps prefer the light did not shine.

The subsidiary electoral questions would give a binding referendum result on the Scottish Government, but if polled first should have absolutely no initial impact whatsoever upon Westminster; in fact it may never have any impact outside of Scotland.

Westminster and the London centric parties would ostensibly have little reason to object to it, other than as the Scots daring to simply ask a question.  Irrespective of the fact that the two referendum proposal originated in Westminster’s halls, expect objections anyway.

This subsidiary referendum could contain two separate three part questions which are as constitutionally significant to our nation as the primary referendum, but would allow the nation to chart its democratic path clearly after the primary poll.  The main poll would then contain substantially less uncertainty.

It could also tip the hand of those who might ally with the No campaign, allowing counter arguments to be prepared.

Before we Scots are asked to vote on independence, perhaps we should first settle the two most glaring of the outstanding questions before us, and do so on an alternative vote system.

Alex Salmond and the SNP would also be re-affirming the democratic rights of the people and setting precedents for others to follow, which should do the incumbent administration no harm whatsoever.  It would also affirm once again the right of the people as sovereign decision makers in Scotland.

Question one would ask the people to decide on the EU.  Scotland, the nation, has never been asked this question.

After an Independence Referendum would you wish Scotland to:

Remain in the EU with direct representation ensuring Scottish interests are secured for Scotland within the existing European framework

[ ]
Would you wish Scotland to maintain control of all its laws and resources, leaving the EU but remaining a part of the European Trading Community [ ]
Would you wish Scotland to withdraw from the EU entirely [ ]

Interestingly this should also force the EU to declare its position.

The second question is currency related.

After an Independence Referendum would you wish Scotland to:
Remain with the Bank of England and the Pound [ ]
Join the Euro [ ]
Revert to her own currency backed by her own resources [ ]

Both of these are fundamental issues to be decided under the mantle of independence, it is only right and proper that the people decide. The people must become accustomed to being empowered.

In this decision making process certain key issues will arise, issues such as the viability of the Euro or the viability of Sterling.  Both are set to emerge in a very dim light at the present time.

The solvency of both the UK and the EU will be put under the collective microscope, both as to monetary capital and political capital, and the worth of each to future Scots, standing tall once again at the table of nations.  Scots will have time to adjust to and integrate these realities.

There has been a limit placed upon the spending in Scotland’s primary referendum, that limit is meagre to say the least.  It is all that will be “legally authorized” for each side to spend.  It is typically accepted as fact that the side with the biggest war chest has the better chance of winning and will often do so.

In the Scottish referendum to be, this is a fallacy.  Both sides will be limited, creating the external appearance of a level playing field, however there has not been, nor is it possible to place much restriction on private or broadcast media.

The news media [broadcasting] is Westminster controlled, it is reserved, therefore it categorically will not be a level playing field.  Vested worldwide interest will also align, for the most part, and for its own short term self interest, against a Yes vote.

In light of recent events perhaps the previous statement should more aptly read “Westminster is media controlled”.  Westminster, broadcast and print media certainly appear reserved each to the other, so close are the demonstrated ties it could only be described in our current age as a revolving door.

This ‘war chest’ of the No campaign will be massive and well stocked.  Cameron declared that himself in May.  This requires that the Yes campaign arm itself well with its main arguments, truth and information.

If truth and information are properly disseminated in a subsidiary referendum campaign, then the size of the No campaign war chest should be irrelevant, as the Yes campaign will literally hold its keys.

A second referendum might just be a good idea when seen in this way.  It requires the average non-politically inclined Scot to think about issues post referendum.

It almost forces issues to be normalized in the national consciousness.  It would require two of the most fundamental questions to be answered, by Scotland, for Scotland.  The debate should be limited to the areas in question.  The results would be enlightening, irrespective of the outcome.

It re-enforces democratic choice within the nation.  Through the logical process of debate and full expose of the issues and arguments on the facts of two core issues, potentially ensuring a majority of the fear and scaremongering tactics are nullified prior to being brought to bear.

Most importantly, when the people walk to the polls for the main event we may all have the opportunity to have a better informed public voting upon pre-resolved core issues surrounding the biggest event to ever be collectively decided by our nation, absent weapons drawn.

The people will then be voting on core issues they themselves have resolved – on as balanced a field as possible.  The more conservative amongst us will better know the size of the ultimate step, and perhaps find it that much easier to take.

Information and empowerment may well create a bigger nationalist result in the independence referendum than was seen on May 5th.

The side which gets even 10% of the typically voluntarily disenfranchised to the final poll will probably win.  In today’s political climate it’s as simple as that.

Truth, liberty, wealth and empowerment are all good reasons to energize.  One side almost has the monopoly for the upcoming poll.  Whether will it use it and use it wisely remains to be seen.