Och Aye or Och No: we don’t know

Lesley Riddoch’s piece in the Scotsman argues that the Scottish Independence campaign, so far, has been a bit crap. No one (bar the single minded numpty) is quite sure what they want and they need better information. They won’t get that if Yes/ No campaigns just invite people to vote yes or no, or if they just get ‘one-sided “propaganda”’. They ‘need an authentic choice’. That choice needs to come via something like a ‘pre-referendum Constitutional Convention’ which ‘would let voters compare all propositions before taking the plunge’:

It’s naïve perhaps to think political parties might sink bitter differences for the sake of democracy. But as things stand, this referendum may be remembered more for the chronic indecision of the Scottish people than any actual result.

For me, the naïve idea is that we can construct a commission to set out the facts in an objective way. I reckon that it comes from a romantic view of the Nordics, where many countries have this reputation for consensus-building. The problem with this idea is that consensus-seeking is also debate-stifling. It does not sit well with the UK tradition of open, often adversarial, argument in which two groups present opposing arguments and ask people to choose between them. The advantage of this system is that it is entertaining and relatively likely to capture the public imagination. The more theatrical, the better. If anything, the debate has received too much attention – it has dominated Scottish debate for ages – at the expense of more important issues. This seems, to me, to be more useful than hanging our hats on a commission – which, if it is populated by thinky-folk, could only produce an honest report if it says: “how the hell do we know what will happen?”.


Filed under Scottish politics, Social change, UK politics and policy

2 responses to “Och Aye or Och No: we don’t know

  1. If only there were a way of testing the hypothesis that more adversarial politics engages more people in the democratic process than consensus building arrangements.

    I mean if only we could test this hypothesis by looking at something simple like say electoral turnouts across countries we could determine were consensus/adversarial?

    If only such a thing were possible? ;P

  2. I’ve had to suspend my no-sarcasm rule to let that one through.

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