Quo Vadis Democracy?

I wrote this earlier today in response to a post Tom Morton put on his blog. You can read Tom’s post here : http://beatcroft.blogspot.co.uk/ and I suggest you should before reading my reply, which he has published in his comments.

I hope something I’m saying here will resonate or at the very least cause you to stop and think if you are planning to vote No. Donald Rumsfeld got slagged rotten for saying this:

“Reports that say there’s — that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things that we know that we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns, the ones we don’t know we don’t know.

and you know what? He was dead right (in this case…. not much else I’ll agree with him on) We know there are unknowns, (who’s going to win the UK election in 2015? Will we still be in the EU?) we know there are unknown unknowns. (sorry can’t give an example of them). Yet we have to make a decision. And we ought to think about democracy and where that’s going when we make our decision. It’s an imperfect world full of imperfect information. But something we do know and can plot the likely direction of.

So here’s what I said to Tom Morton.

Morning Tom, That’s an excellent post and I totally get where you’re coming from. Maybe though, you’re not as far away from some of us Yessers as you think?

To me, the 18th of September will be the pinnacle of democracy in the United Kingdom. It’s the opportunity to let the people have their say in the most direct of ways. This is good, very good. No guns, no explosions. Plenty of heated and passionate discussions, but no guns or explosions.

If the vote is NO then where does democracy go? Back to a system of FPTP which is less representative of the will of most than the alternative, to a system which those who benefit most from it (FPTP) ensured wouldn’t change. To a system where two parties take “turns” at being in control, with little opportunity for change as the inertia in the system acts against this. To a system where it is becoming harder to find real differences between the two parties who take these turns. To a system where how people vote in this country really makes very little difference to the end result.

If the vote is YES then where does democracy go? To a different system. To a system where the proportional element of the system ensures that smaller voices can be heard and represented. To a system which is more democratic, to a system where how people vote in this country actually can make a difference. The first Scottish Parliament was a democratic wonder. A Rainbow Parliament they called it. Labour, Tory, LibDem, SNP – sure, but also Green and SSP were in that Parliament. (There may have been others too).

The only explosion there has been in the whole referendum campaign is the explosion of people getting involved. Even if their involvement is limited to attending a Town Hall meeting, all over Scotland people have been doing this. And that’s marvellous as it revitalises Scotland’s democracy. I spoke of the Rainbow Parliament, what’s happening on the ground today reflects that, in fact it probably takes it beyond the visible spectrum! Farmers for Yes, Women for Indy, The National Collective, English for Independence, Business for Scotland, Generation Yes, Radical Independence Campaign, Italians for Independence, etc. This list could go on and on. There’s way too many “groups” involved in pushing for Yes vote for it ever to be able to be defined as narrow nationalism, civic or otherwise. The YES campaign is possibly the biggest demonstration of people power we’ll see in our lifetimes. Maybe this is the ultimate demonstration of democracy in action? I’m certain that in the 2016 Scottish Parliamentary elections we’ll see a raft of new parties and people standing for election. Generation YES, RIC and others are sure to put up candidates. And that’s got to be good for democracy. Although it may seem bizarre, the SNP could be the biggest losers in the 2016 elections. They’ll have done their job, their time will have passed. Maybe. This can only happen following a YES vote. Vote NO and I’ll bet on an even stronger SNP come the 2015 and then the 2016 elections.

I truly hope we get a YES on the 18th September as it represents the best hope for democracy in the long run for whole of the UK. If it’s Yes, then it will be messy, it will be chaotic even. It will take a long time to settle down. Probably years. But it places democracy and power back in the hands of the people who live in Scotland. Future generations will benefit from this.

Through the democratic process of getting to where we are today the curtains have been pulled back on the Wizard of Oz in Westminster and half the population has recoiled in disgust. Together, they’re sure there is a better alternative. This genie is well and truly out of the bottle and isn’t going back in. I don’t know how a No result will be taken, but I suspect it will strengthen rather than weaken the SNP.


Just some thoughts Tom. I hope you don’t mind the debate. That’s what’s so good about this referendum. That we can talk and exchange points of view.

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