Friday, September 19, 2014

The morning after

So Scotland stays part of the UK.

Wisdom after the event is pretty useless, but I guessed at a 45/55 split in favour of remaining (a YouGov app asked me the day before). There was no real intuition there, just a guess that the final result would be a little bit more "conservative" than the polls were suggesting, as people lost their nerve (or as undecided voters thought it was best to go with the status quo). It was much closer than the referendum on electoral reform ....

My thoughts this morning? The three "English" parties have no electoral mandate to offer increased devolution of powers. The settlement that permits public (government) spending to be 20% higher in Scotland is, at least to my mind, undemocratic and an example of the unaccountability of central government. And nobody ever asked us if we still wanted a union with a country so eager to bite the hand that feeds (did I mention that you pay five times more to be a student in Scotland if you are from England than if you are from a qualifying EU country? Source). Those are just a couple of the points relevant to this issue which illustrate how Westminster and the political process in general is also disengaged from the electorate that didn't get to vote. As was commented by another English friend, "When do WE get to vote for independence?"

The turnout in the referendum was over 84%. The last time the UK saw a turnout of this level in a general election was 1950. At the last general election, it was around 65% (source). This shows that people are engaged by political questions, and yet they don't vote in general elections. Why is this? Perhaps because it feels like it makes no difference. Few of the political parties distinguished themselves in this referendum - and yet, there was a genuine sense amongst the voting population in Scotland that they were a part of something. Perhaps it was the very fact that it was largely detached from the Westminster political system - or maybe because, unlike the bulk of votes cast in the general election, it would actually count towards the final result.

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