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Ireland, Scotland and the UK

 
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I have to say, I really didn't care about this referendum until I read this thread and received Jeanne's updates tonight via email.

Having now spent an hour going through some of the articles on the Guardian, I just wanted to say thank you all for making me a better informed individual.
 
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Karthik Shiraly wrote:All people were given an opportunity to participate and have their say peacefully


Well, yes and no. My understanding is that Scots not living in Scotland (a group thought more likely to vote No, and otherwise allowed to vote) were not allowed to participate, and that Scots of age 16 and 17 (a group thought more likely to vote Yes, and otherwise not allowed to vote) were allowed to participate. So it's not like the organizers did not try to stack the vote in their favor. It would be interesting to know whether the British PM knew of this setup when he agreed to respect the outcome of the referendum.
 
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Anybody registered to vote in Scotland could vote. It is not normal for 16‑year‑olds to vote in Britain, only at 18+. English or Irish people who happen to have lived in Scotland in October last year could vote; even if they have left Scotland they could apply for a postal vote or travel back to their former home.
Scottish people living in England Ireland or Monaco could not vote. Voting is arranged by residence not ethnicity (Scottish/English etc).
 
Campbell Ritchie
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Although one might have predicted that certain subgroups might be more likely to vote for a particular option, that was not taken in to account when defining the electorate. The electorate was defined the same way it would have been for any election.
 
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Ulf Dittmer wrote:Well, yes and no. My understanding is that Scots not living in Scotland (a group thought more likely to vote No, and otherwise allowed to vote) were not allowed to participate, and that Scots of age 16 and 17 (a group thought more likely to vote Yes, and otherwise not allowed to vote) were allowed to participate. So it's not like the organizers did not try to stack the vote in their favor. It would be interesting to know whether the British PM knew of this setup when he agreed to respect the outcome of the referendum.


Yes, he would have known. The way the referendum was run was down to an agreement between Alex Salmond and David Cameron. The Scottish parliament wouldn't have been able to impose rules. For example, Salmond proposed putting a third option on the ballot - DevoMax (increase devolution of powers to the Scottish government short of independence). Which would probably have won, but Cameron vetoed that, presumably because he was fairly confident at the time of No winning without the third option. Ironically, after the poll that showed Yes might win they had to promise DevoMax to clinch it.
 
Ulf Dittmer
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Campbell Ritchie wrote:The electorate was defined the same way it would have been for any election.


I stand corrected, then. What I had read implied otherwise.
 
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Maybe the elections were rigged

source
 
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Matthew Brown wrote:The way the referendum was run was down to an agreement between Alex Salmond and David Cameron.


Are referendums the norm in England/Scotland/other UK countries, or was this a one off?
I've always felt this kind of direct democracy is "true" democracy. It seems Switzerland - and to my surprise, US at lower administrative levels - are the only countries with some level of direct democracy.
The representative kind is a poor cousin and I'm not a fan. It might work if the "representatives" genuinely have society's interests in mind instead of personal or narrow corporate interests, but that never seems to happen.
 
Campbell Ritchie
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When I was at school there had never been a referendum and I was told it was not in the constitution. The first was probably in Northern Ireland in 1973 about whether to separate from the UK. There was a nationwide referendum in 1975 about joining the EEC (as it was called then). The most recent referendum in England was in the ten towns/cities which had elected Mayors. Interestingly Middlesbrough (despite our having RoboCop as Mayor) was the only town to retain the Mayoral system. We had a regional referendum about ten years ago about setting up a regional assembly probably based at Durham City. I think most of the electorate perceived it as a toothless talking shop which would simply have been jobs for the boys and expense on the texes, so we voted it down by a large majority. Proper Devo would be welcome and might have been voted for.

It seems we have regional and local referenda much more frequently than national ones in Britain.
 
Campbell Ritchie
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Though there is no such thing as a Constitution in this country either.
 
Campbell Ritchie
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I also remember a referendum in Wales on 1st March (appropriate date) 1979, when I was in South Wales. I remember writing HOME RULE FOR ENGLAND on the blackboard. As far as I remember that referendum was voted down.
Referenda are unusual in UK.
 
Karthik Shiraly
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Campbell Ritchie wrote:Referenda are unusual in UK.


Interesting bits of history in your replies. I had no idea there had been referendums of similar importance in Northern Ireland and Wales in the 70s, though if I understand them correctly, those were not for breaking away as full fledged independent countries.
 
Matthew Brown
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There was also a referendum in 2011, about proposed changed to the voting system (First-past-the-post v Alternate Vote - the vote was to keep FPTP). That was part of the agreement that formed the coalition government (the LibDems have always campaigned for a more proportional voting system). In general referenda here tend to be about changes to the way government works.
 
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Ulf Dittmer wrote:

Campbell Ritchie wrote:The electorate was defined the same way it would have been for any election.


I stand corrected, then. What I had read implied otherwise.


Ulf: I had the same understanding as you. Good to be corrected by people who actually live in the UK.

Chris R Barrett wrote:I have to say, I really didn't care about this referendum until I read this thread and received Jeanne's updates tonight via email.


Nice to know I inspired you . I was interested for three main reasons:
1) It is interesting
2) UK is a world power. It "shrinking" affects the world.
3) If Scotland voted yes, I think it that would have encouraged more separatist movements. (Quebec, Six Californias, etc). I don't think Six Californias would have ever happened because I don't think the US Senate would have agreed to it even if California voted yes. But it would have been a waste of time/money/attention.

I also don't think it was a good economic/logical choice for Scotland. But that wasn't what sparked my interest
 
Ulf Dittmer
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Campbell Ritchie wrote:The electorate was defined the same way it would have been for any election.


That 16 and 17 olds can vote seems to be something that was especially added for this referendum, though: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-23074572, they would not normally be allowed to do so (hence http://www.votesat16.org/).
 
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Well it's all over, and now for the shouting!

There will be a lot of discussion about the results and what this means for the UK - especially in relation to how England is governed - but it's worth bearing in mind that 45% of the Scottish electorate were so disillusioned with the UK government that they were prepared to vote for independence despite the real concerns (and blatant scare-mongering by some pro-UK campaigners) about what that might mean for Scotland's future.

That's a bigger proportion of the vote than almost any UK government has achieved in the last 50 years, so when Westminster politicians are trying to weasel their way out of delivering real constitutional change for the UK over the next few months, they should remind themselves that there is a real demand for substantial change not just in Scotland but across the UK as a whole. The status quo is definitely not an option any more - even our English neighbours are finally beginning to recognise this!

So I for one am grateful to the people of Scotland for forcing these issues onto the UK political agenda and for proving that people are prepared to engage seriously in politics when they feel they can actually influence events and bring about change, an approach that the Westminster establishment has long since abandoned.

Now it's up to all of us to "work as if you live in the early days of a better nation".
 
chris webster
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Matthew Brown wrote:For example, Salmond proposed putting a third option on the ballot - DevoMax (increase devolution of powers to the Scottish government short of independence). Which would probably have won, but Cameron vetoed that, presumably because he was fairly confident at the time of No winning without the third option. Ironically, after the poll that showed Yes might win they had to promise DevoMax to clinch it.


Yes, DevoMax would probably have won the vote in Scotland - and it looks like they're now going to get something along those lines anyway, as you point out. But the Westminster government is very reluctant to give up further powers to Scotland, partly because no politician ever gives up power voluntarily, but mainly because it will force them to address the "English question" which they seem to find terribly confusing. For example, I heard somebody on the BBC claiming that this is a terribly complex issue that has defied attempts to find a solution for more than 40 years. This is nonsense of course. The problem boils down to "English votes for English laws", so that Scottish and Welsh politicians should not be able to vote on matters which do not affect Scotland or Wales, which is perfectly fair. All they need to do is create a forum for this to happen. An English regional assembly seems like a perfectly good solution - the USA has state legislatures, German has regional parliaments, so what's the problem with a similarly federal solution for the UK?

Except that for this to happen, Westminster really would have to give up a lot more power to the English assembly, so I expect we'll continue to see a lot of "constitutional experts" furrowing their brows and telling us all the reasons why this is not possible.

Campbell got it right back in 1979: Home rule for England!

 
chris webster
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Ulf Dittmer wrote:

Campbell Ritchie wrote:The electorate was defined the same way it would have been for any election.


That 16 and 17 olds can vote seems to be something that was especially added for this referendum, though: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-23074572, they would not normally be allowed to do so (hence http://www.votesat16.org/).


True, but lowering the voting age has been discussed quite a lot in recent years as a possible response to the perceived decline in political engagement, particularly among younger people.
 
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Karthik Shiraly wrote:

Campbell Ritchie wrote:Referenda are unusual in UK.


Interesting bits of history in your replies. I had no idea there had been referendums of similar importance in Northern Ireland and Wales in the 70s, though if I understand them correctly, those were not for breaking away as full fledged independent countries.


In 1979 there was a referendum asking whether Scotland and Wales should have their own regional governments. The results were:

Wales:
  • Yes = 20%
  • No = 80%

  • Scotland:
  • Yes = 52%
  • No = 48%

  • But there was an extra restriction that at least 40% of the total electorate had to vote for devolution. The turnout in Scotland was too low for this to be achieved, so Scotland did not get devolution in 1979.

    In 1997, there was another vote on devolution for Scotland and Wales. This time the results were very different:

    Wales:
  • Yes = 50.3%
  • No = 49.7%

  • Scotland:
  • Yes = 74.3%
  • No = 25.7%

  • As you can see, the demand for home rule had risen massively in both countries and only a straight majority of the vote was required, so both countries got devolution.
     
    Matthew Brown
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    chris webster wrote:Except that for this to happen, Westminster really would have to give up a lot more power to the English assembly, so I expect we'll continue to see a lot of "constitutional experts" furrowing their brows and telling us all the reasons why this is not possible.



    Rather than an English regional assembly, I'd prefer to see several English regional assemblies. I think it's a mistake to think of England as one homogeneous mass. For example, most of the North of England has as much or more in common politically with Scotland than with the South East. And there are definitely regional issues that a more focussed assembly might be better placed to deal with. Split England into, say, 5-8 regions.

    What the Tories are more likely to push for, I suspect, is a rule where the "English regional assembly" is actually Westminster, with all the Scottish, Welsh and Irish MPs waiting outside.
     
    chris webster
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    Matthew Brown wrote:Rather than an English regional assembly, I'd prefer to see several English regional assemblies. I think it's a mistake to think of England as one homogeneous mass.


    Agreed!

    Matthew Brown wrote:What the Tories are more likely to push for, I suspect, is a rule where the "English regional assembly" is actually Westminster, with all the Scottish, Welsh and Irish MPs waiting outside.


    Likewise!
     
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    Looks to me that David Cameron gave the Scots nearly all that they would have gotten with independence, without the ugly stuff (needing a military, etc.)

    I'd say that the campaign was a big win for the Scottish Nationalists, even if they didn't get independence.
     
    Campbell Ritchie
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    chris webster wrote: . . . "English votes for English laws" . . .

    That is called the West Lothian Question after Tam Dallyell (pronounced Dee′ell) who was MP for Linlithgow (in West Lothian) who famously propounded it in a form everybody could understand.
     
    Campbell Ritchie
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    chris webster wrote: . . .
    Yes, DevoMax would probably have won the vote in Scotland . . .

    Quite rightly.
     
    Chris Barrett
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    chris webster wrote:

    Matthew Brown wrote:What the Tories are more likely to push for, I suspect, is a rule where the "English regional assembly" is actually Westminster, with all the Scottish, Welsh and Irish MPs waiting outside.


    Likewise!


    I'm the first to admit, I'm late to this party. Trying to catch up fast. Is the feeling that the vote result means the issue is dead and the country can move on? Or, is this going to continue for the next 20 years like the Quebec sovereignty issue has in Canada? After the vote, Canada gave Quebec most of what it wanted (language control, control over it's own pension plan, and separate immigration system), but every federal or Quebec provincial election the sovereignty debate is brought back up.

    In 1995, Quebec voter turnout was similar (93%), and the results were similar (50.5% to stay in Canada). It does sound like the Scottish question was much more direct, while the Canada/Quebec question was vague (something like "Do you vote to renegotiate the Quebec partnership with Canada?"). Quebec politicians publicly stated a separated Quebec would continue to use Canadian currency, Canadian military and Canadian passports to which the federal government never directly challenged. Also, it was not a 50%+1 vote majority with Quebec. The vote required a "clear" majority with the word "clear" never being formally defined. Finally, and maybe I missed it, but I haven't read anything about Scottish politicians blaming the self-identity issues of recent UK immigrants living in Scotland (which happened in Canada when the PQ leader blamed the loss on the "ethnic vote" and gave the Québécois a reason to feel they didn't lose the vote - the immigrants cost them the vote).
     
    Jeanne Boyarsky
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    Chris R Barrett wrote: Is the feeling that the vote result means the issue is dead and the country can move on?


    I don't think these are mutually exclusive. Even if the issue were dead, there's a lot of healing and changing to do. Per the posts above, there are changes coming to the UK government even though the referendum didn't pass.

    Also, take a look at wikipedia. There have been referendums for devolution in 1979 and 1997. While that's not the same as independence, the issue doesn't appear to go away.
     
    Pat Farrell
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    Jeanne Boyarsky wrote:Per the posts above, there are changes coming to the UK government even though the referendum didn't pass.



    As someone on this side of the Pond, the UK government is most strange. Westminster controls so much nation-wide that in the US we assign to the states, counties and even towns. Even big city mayors in the UK have no power relative to a mayor in NYC, LA, Chicago, etc.

    I expect that like all bureaucracies, the Westminster folks will fight to keep their power, but eventually, it has to move closer to the voters. Not only in Scotland, but in Wales, N.I., and England itself.
     
    Campbell Ritchie
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    Despite the EU's policies about “subsidiarity”, European government tends towards centralisation. UK is a particularly bad example I am afraid.
     
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