Wednesday, 19 October 2011

rigging the referendum

I was inspired by Twitter posts and a post from burdzeyeview this afternoon while on the train from Glasgow to London - fitting really - though when I say inspired I may mean 'got all het up'.

Labour thinks that the SNP wants to allow 16 and 17 year olds get to vote in the referendum because it will be the youth 'wot won it'.

I have never been that bothered about breaking up the union. Up until a few years ago I just thought that it was generally unfair how the Scots got treated. I hadn't pondered on it long enough to form a strong opinion and in the main adhered to an uneducated federalist type of a view. I pretty much like people to get on with one another and work together so my natural bent is towards sticking together rather than splitting up. Although having seen some friends break up with unsuitable partners and come out the better for it, splitting up is hard to do but possibly is short term pain traded for long term gain. Maybe this lack of seeking out in detail my views on independence was a flaw of mine, but, boy, am I making up for it now.

I have almost always worked for cross-UK organisations, the most recognisable being that of the Scottish Parliament, itself a deeply embedded part of our constitutional settlement. Across all I experienced brilliant and supportive working relationships across the UK, a certain amount of currency in being Scottish [tends be seen as a positive even given our stereotypes] and a fair amount of anglocentric misinformed nonsense about what living in a four nation UK is all about.

Despite not being sure myself exactly where I fall in the love triangle of union, federalism and independence, I have a strong enough interest in politics to follow others closely. I love a debate and often would take contrary positions just to have a good old 3am discussion fueled by red wine. I also thoroughly enjoyed cross party meetings between the four legislatures in the UK. I am fascinated by how our United Kingdom works politically.

I did know that I wanted a Parliament and believed passionately in devolution. The devolution campaign was my first and highly enjoyable foray into national political movements. I believe that people should be responsible and accountable for their own communities within a progressive legislative framework. My last day at work in the Scottish Parliament [in a non-political and politically restricted post by the way] was heart wrenching not just because I was leaving a much loved job but because I was leaving the Parliament itself - I would no longer be a daily part of our national political life.

So - I am not someone who was brought up living and breathing a Scottish cultural and national identity. I am not a member of the SNP. I didn't personally see devolution as a step towards inevitable divorce from England.

I am someone, though, who cannot stand a small group of people playing with other people's democratic rights to score points over another political party. I have always and vehemently believed in the vote at 16 - no taxation without representation. And with this age group being one of our most marginalised and maligned I am angry at their use as a political football. To be honest, if the referendum debate boils down to this kind of point scoring to keep Scotland in the Union then that is the finest argument I have heard to give the vote to 16-17 year olds, hold the referendum and divorce if that is what the electorate decide.

In some places in the world people are fighting to be able to vote at all. In the UK we fight over whether developing and extending our voting rights to people who pay tax might give a result the powers that be might not like. I find that scarier than independence.

1 comment:

  1. I agree. It's not just this issue, though. When we should be talking about Scotland's future and the sort of country we want to be or see, we the people are actually being subjected to macho posturing from both sides.

    I might comment in passing that the SNP could have given 16 year olds a vote in the Council elections - I'm fairly certain the Greens and Lib Dems would have supported them if they'd introduced it when they were a minority.

    Even so, suggesting giving a say in the Scotland they will hopefully contribute to all their adult lives is rigging a referendum is highly insulting to our young people. Tom Harris might be better off actually going and finding some young people and talking to them about their concerns and putting across his vision of Scotland. But Authoritarian Labour doesn't really work like that.