The following is a status update I posted to facebook earlier this evening. There are a lot of reasons we’re being asked to vote one way or another but there’s one that I feel to be most important.
Before we get started, this is going to be a long one but as the referendum draws nearer and nearer and we come closer to making the biggest decision of our lives I feel that I should present my reasoning behind voting Yes. I’d ask that whether you’re voting Yes or No or if your completely undecided, please feel free to give this a read.
There have been a lot of reasons put down on the table for voting one way or another; from equality and prosperity vs. power and security, right down to “fuck it, it’ll be a laugh” vs. “no, dear, I like things the way they are.”
We’ve heard talk of currency, resources, NATO, the EU, North Sea Oil and Gas, Trident, the Queen, debt sharing, the Vienna Convention, companies telling us they’ll move south, companies telling us they’ll stay up here,… the list goes on and on.
Some of these reasons are monumentally confusing or beyond the understanding of normal folks, for example, the finer points of a currency union aren’t going to be readily apparent to those of us who aren’t economists and the finer points of debt sharing, EU membership, etc. generally require a lawyer of some description to hand.
At many points down the line it’s even turned into a battle of the politicians, “Oh Alex Salmond’s referendum!” Let’s face it, none of us really like the current crop of politicians on either side of the border, or anywhere for that matter. But, despite what the media might spout out every now and again, it isn’t about them – it’s about us.
This referendum seems to be about a lot of things, but the one thing it boils down to is democracy.
Within the United Kingdom, Scotland is represented by roughly 8.5% of the MPs in the House of Commons, which is, admittedly, a fair representation of the population share. However, Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom , for all of their similarities, are quite different entities; we tend to vote differently and we tend towards different policy areas. In Scotland, for example, a majority of people see the EU as a beneficial organisation and would opt to continue membership. However, if we go down south, a majority of voters would say that they want out of the EU.
This basically means that even if Scottish voters want to go one way, if the English electorate decide to go the other, Scotland is simply forced to do as the rUK wants. So let’s now turn to the matter of the EU: if there was a No vote but Scottish voters decided they wanted to stay in the EU and the rUK said they wanted out, Scots would be dragged, kicking and screaming, out of the EU despite wanting to stay.
I only use the EU as an example because it’s been in the news quite a bit recently, but the point remains the same for any other issue, Scotland 8.5% share of any vote (parliamentary or popular) can always be negated by England’s 88% share of such a vote. This, for two countries who are so culturally and politically different, is a situation that never ends too well.
However, in the interests of getting my point across I am going to make it worse… Remember how I said we Scots had 8.5% political representation in the commons? That should boil down to being able to hold 8.5% of our politicians directly accountable to the electorate, yes? Nope.
You see, the United Kingdom is a fundamentally undemocratic country, under current guidelines the United Kingdom, as a non-EU member state, would be refused entry to the EU because it’s so undemocratic. I am talking, of course, about the House of Lords. Half of our legislative body (the Upper House) is made up of wholly unelected members, most of whom are quite incredibly removed from normal society.
Many of the members are appointed by the party in power in the House of Commons, which effectively allows the party controlling the Lower House to gain control of the Upper House. There are also a number of hereditary peers in the House of Lords – various Dukes, Earls, Counts, etc., who gained their seat in parliament by inheritance… How wonderful it is to live in a modern democracy!
Add to this the fact that there are over twenty Church of England bishops in the Lords. This means that every time a law is voted on, a single religious group (and not one with a huge following in Scotland) is getting preference over all others to input and vote on that law.
So, once we account for the Lords, the proportion of our Westminster politicians that Scots can hold accountable at the ballot box is roughly 3%.
Yeah, you read that correctly, we can hold about 3% of our politicians directly accountable. For a country that claims to be a beacon of freedom and democracy, that’s a pretty damned poor show. Not really democracy at all then…
But we do have a means by which we can change this. On September 18th, I will be voting Yes for one reason; to make sure that 100% of our country’s politicians can be held directly accountable to the electorate. This is a state of affairs that so many people in so many different countries would take for granted, but in Scotland we have been robbed of it.
A Yes vote means that every time we Scots vote in a general election, we get the governments we vote for. It means that when we don’t like a government we can chuck them out via the ballot box. It means that when we, as a nation, make a decision to move in one direction we will be able to do so.
In short, we will, for the first time in the history of our country, have the power to shape our future in the hands of the people who live here instead of in the hands of the privileged few or those in another country.
That’s why I am voting Yes, for democracy.