Like many I’m disappointed with the results of the referendum. As I wrote a few days ago, I was never someone who thought independence would immediately produce a better nation, but it was far easier to visualise progress in an independent Scotland than in the status quo. A couple of thoughts:
1. Independence is probably inevitable
Michael Ashcroft has released results of a survey carried out after the vote. As with all polls it difficult to know how confident to be in its accuracy, but the results are interesting.
Yes won in every age group except 55-64 and 65+, which seems to suggest a majority in favour of independence is inevitable. As someone once said, I can’t remember who, bad ideas generally don’t die out because they are shown to be wrong. The reality tends to be far more literal than that. It isn’t certain to go that way of course, it depends on what happens to the UK over the next 20 years or so. New factors could emerge that change this pattern.
It is also interesting to look at why people voted the way they did:
2. A permanent resurgence of democratic participation is certainly not inevitable
I’ve lost count of the number articles I’ve read and of people who said to me that given the mass participation that has taken place around this referendum, on the street and in the voter turnout, there is no way things can go back to how they were. I’m not at all convinced.
The referendum campaign has been incredible in getting people engaged with politics, I agree. I hope everyone can now accept that the general public do care about what is going on around them, and that we are more than capable of engaging with complex issues. We don’t need an ‘educated elite’ to make decisions for us.
The reasons people have engaged with this process so enthusiastically I think are quite simple.
1. There was a genuine choice on offer.
2. The was a genuine outlet for affecting the outcome.
In most of the elections citizens are asked to participate in neither of these have been true, as there is almost no meaningful difference between the UK’s major political parties and our electoral system(s) place citizens at a great distance from the actual decisions that governments make. I don’t see this changing anytime soon, and unless it does I fully expect the energy built up around the referendum will start to dissipate.
For this kind of participation to continue then we just have to figure out ways to make these factors an ongoing feature of political life. There are lots of way that could be done, so I’ll end with a shout for a group who working on just this problem, SoSayScotland. They’ve already done a lot of interesting work around democracy in Scotland and now that this referendum is over I’m hoping to get involved with them however I can. I hope others do too.