Reflections on the referendum in Scotland

Having had a day to mull it, here are some of my thoughts on the outcome of the independence referendum.

1. Phew!

This was a case where – regardless of where in the political spectrum who hail from – the conservative argument about not trading known current benefits for speculative future ones should have been compelling. Forging a new state was as unnecessary as it was risky. That it’s been fended off for the time being is excellent news.

2. Uh oh!

My assumption until a few weeks ago was that referendums usually endorsed the status quo and that unless the campaign backing a change was substantially ahead at the outset it was bound to lose. Yes Scotland showed this to be nonsense. That makes me far more concerned about an EU referendum than I was before.

3. English Devolution should mean devolving power to something meaningful

Once English votes for English issues and an English parliament have proved to be totally unworkable, the next stop is likely to be devolution to regions. This is a sensible suggestion but we can do better.

There seems to be an inverse correlation between the population of American states and their Governors approval ratings: the closer you bring government to people the more they like it. And America also suggests that you can get surprisingly close. The state of Wyoming has more power than the Scottish government yet a population similar to Gloucestershire!

I would therefore favour looking at what powers we can give to City regions and counties.

4. The huge turnout is not quite the cause for celebration it appears

I’ve seen a lots of people tweeting that the 85% turnout heralds a new era of democratic engagement and proves something like ‘people ARE interested in politics just not in political parties.’

The problem is that the latter assertion rather undercuts the former. Very few political issues can be dramatic binary choices about the fate of a nation. It is generally more mundane, involves messy compromises and can’t work without political parties. When we see such high participation in boring old national and local elections then it will be time to celebrate.

5. Yes got some help it probably didn’t want

Being in Venice at the moment – I can feel your jealousy from here! – which is the heartland of the North Italy’s separatist Lega Nord movement, I was curious what the League made of Scotland. Turns out they were really keen on Independence and sent people to campaign for it.

Given that they are a far right grouping which make Nigel Farage look like Caroline Lucas, I imagine that Yes Scotland would have rather they hadn’t.

As an amusing coda, following the result their founder Umberto Bossi lamented that: “They succeeded in frightening people and unfortunately in a democracy, there’s the risk that whoever has the television stations and can control the newspapers, like the state, can manage to frighten people.” That from a political ally of Silvio Berlusconi!

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