Home > Uncategorized > The Case For A Second Question!

The Case For A Second Question!


I’ve been mulling this post over for a while, ever since Jade Holden wrote a piece against a second question on her blog.

I was glad to read that the fringe event at Scottish Liberal Democrat conference and my speech to the floor of conference, made her agree and excited to join the campaign against a Yes/No ballot.

I was disappointed to read that she changed her mind later that weekend.

I still believe in a second question. Why?

As I said to conference, “a vote against independence is a vote for the status quo”. I am not and will never be in favour of the current constitutional settlement.

However, unlike Andrew Page or Graeme Cowie, I’m not in favour of independence. I don’t believe going a step too far might be better than not going far enough.

I firmly believe being one step back or one step ahead of the right constitutional settlement are as bad as each other.

If I wasn’t interested in this question or had I not been taught about democracy around the time of Scottish Devolution, had I not thought of how I would like to see the constitutional settlement solved then it would be so easy for me to vote No in the coming referendum and think nothing of it.

But because I am interested in the question and in politics, I won’t be able to bring myself to vote No.

I can’t vote No because of one simple reason: Trust in politics and politicians, in particular David Cameron & the Tories and Ed Miliband & the Labour party.

In 1979, there was a referendum on Scottish Devolution. The Tories said “Vote No and we’ll come up with a better solution”. Well, 33 years later the country is still waiting for the Conservatives’ better solution. Let me put that into perspective for you, thats my life plus almost a decade. It can’t be that hard to find a solution that the Conservative party can agree on, can it?

In 2011, there was a referendum on AV, the ‘No’ side tried to reassure everyone that if they voted No, there was still a chance for voting reform. This vote was specifically on the proposal of AV.

After a No vote was declared, David Cameron amongst others claimed that this was a ‘Yes’ vote for FPTP.

Now the question of independence or not is too important to me for me to allow my vote to be manipulated in this way so I’m making the conscious decision not to vote in any Yes/No referendum.

I believe in change so I believe there should be a change option on the ballot.

I agree with Jade and others who say, complicating the issue with devo-max, devo-plus and devo-extra (my pet name for Home Rule). I agree with the ‘independent’ panel that says rest of UK should have a say in whether the current constitutional settlement should be changed.

The ballot paper could ask:

The current constitutional settlement sees the Scottish Parliament deciding issues on matters such as Health, Education, Law & Order among other things whilst Westminster deciding on matters to deal with Welfare, Economy, Defence, Foreign affairs, Immigration. Should the current constitutional settlement change?

Yes

No

If Yes, should Scotland become an independent state?

Yes

No

There is no Rennie’s riddle here if there is a Yes/Yes, we go independent, if there is a No to the first question we stay as we are. If there is a Yes/No we continue on the debate as to what Scotland we would like to see and hopefully bring the rest of the UK into the debate as well.

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  1. August 28, 2012 at 16:17 | #1

    What would people actually be voting for in question 1, though?

    If they voted yes, what would that actually mean?

    And how would the debate move on from that?

    • August 28, 2012 at 18:04 | #2

      They’d be voting for change.

      It would mean some form of change in the near or not too distant change.

      When people voted for a Scottish Parliament, they didn’t vote for every single power that Scottish parliament would have.

      The debate would move on because in 2015, the parties would have to come up with their own solution and put it into their 2015 manifesto.

      I would hope for a UK Constitutional Convention or a citizens assembly or perhaps both and then the result of either or both to be put to another referendum in the near future.

      Or we could follow what happened in New Zealand when they changed their voting system. In the first referendum, the people of NZ were asked if they wanted to change the voting system, when that resulted in a Yes vote, they then debated the various voting systems.

  2. Daniel
    August 28, 2012 at 16:26 | #3

    So obvious.
    It baffles me that it isn’t the party’s default position.

  3. Al
    August 28, 2012 at 18:38 | #4

    Actually, while I sympathise with much of the sentiment of wanting a second question, this particular question does not actually work for two reasons.

    1) In question 1, “Change” does not indicate the direction or nature of change. In the event of a Yes/No result, it could be easily spun by an English-led Westminster government as indicating that Scots voted for reduced powers.

    2) Suppose 40% of voters want independence, 30% want more (or less) devolution and 30% want the status quo. 70% will vote yes on question 1, 30 will vote no. Only the 70% who voted yes on question 1 are invited to answer question 2.
    So 4/7 of those voting on question 2 will vote yes and 3/7 will vote no, resulting in a Yes/Yes outcome when only 40% of those voting went into the polling booth to vote for independence.
    As someone who supports independence that would, of course, suit me, but I am also a democrat and want to win fairly.

    A good attempt, Nic, but unfortunately this needs more thought.

    • August 28, 2012 at 18:42 | #5

      The wording can be cleaned up so that all are invited to vote in 2nd question with “If there is a Yes vote…”

      I doubt Westminster would ever spin it that Scotland wanted reduced powers, there would be an election in 2015, no mainstream party wants to become an English-only party.

  4. August 28, 2012 at 18:42 | #6

    Nic, thanks for the link back to my blog! The biggest issue in my view is that offering a choice for ‘change’ doesn’t actually give any info because there’s no indication about whether people want more or less devolution or in which areas or to what extent. The only ways to get around that are to pick one alternative to independence (which nobody would be able to agree on and would split the No side in terms of campaigning etc.) or to offer several options as alternatives but, again, the No side would be split. Unfortunately, I’d rather have the status quo than independence. Interesting, as ever, to read your views though.

  5. August 29, 2012 at 04:43 | #7

    First let me make my position clear, I will be voting Yes in the referendum. The status quo is not an option I can support.

    Lets turn Caron’s question the other way – If they voted NO, what would that actually mean?
    And how would the debate move on from that?

    Maybe its too easy to forget the calls to vote No in 79 with the promise from a certain Margaret Thatcher amongst others that a No vote would not be a barrier to further and better devolution.The chance was lost and a generation betrayed by politicians who saw beating the SNP as more important than advancing the interests of our nation.

    Now we have the same nonsense being peddled again with voters being told that if only we defeat Independence then we can all have a kumbayah moment and deliver a Home Rule option a year later. But just like 79, where is the incentive for those opposed to home rule to suddenly embrace it on the back of winning a No vote? Indeed if Canada is an example those who think a No vote will pave the way back into power in the Scottish Parliament are fooling themselves every bit as much as George Robertson who proudly proclaimed in 1995 that Devolution would kill Nationalism stone dead.

    Those that vote Yes will not lightly abandon that cause, those who wanted a second question will rightly feel cheated.

    Those party members still wedded to the belief that somehow BetterTogether and a No vote will advance the cause of Home Rule should stop and think carefully because you are asking members to campaign for the status quo, a position the party said publicly is inadequate?

    “We believe that sovereignty rests with the people and that authority in a democracy derives from the people. We therefore acknowledge their right to determine the form of government best suited to their needs and commit ourselves to the promotion of a democratic federal framework within which as much power as feasible is exercised by the nations and regions of the United Kingdom.

    We compromised on PR and got a failed AV referendum, we compromised on Lords Reform and got nothing. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times…………….

  1. September 2, 2012 at 19:09 | #1

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