The Democracy Argument

I hold my hands up and I admit that I am a federalist, a proponent of voting reform and someone who believes the House of Lords should be turned into an elected upper chamber. I am no fan of the First Past the Post voting system and I would prefer Holyrood to have more powers.

You may think that this makes me the perfect Yes voter, but I’m not. I will be voting NO on the 18th of September and here are the reasons why.

On 11th November 1947, Churchill famously said this:

“Many forms of Gov­ern­ment have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pre­tends that democ­racy is per­fect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democ­racy is the worst form of Gov­ern­ment except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time”

Our democracy is flawed and as I said, FPTP is a dreadful voting system. It is a system that has ensured a tit for tat Conservative/ Labour ping pong game while smaller parties with a decent share of the vote manage just a handful of MPs. With a better system, there would be a representative number of Scottish Conservative and SNP MPs in the House of Commons. We would still only have 59 MPs but we are only a small part of this United Kingdom.

yes_to_avOn 5th of May 2011, there was a referendum, offering us the chance to change the Westminster voting system. Scotland (along with the rest of the UK) voted overwhelmingly against the change. We had the chance to make our own MPs more representative and we declined. Now, had Scotland voted for AV (given we have the additional member system for the Scottish Parliament and multi member constituencies in our council elections,) I would have been more sympathetic to the anti-democracy cries. But we didn’t. Maybe we’re more like the rest of the UK than the nationalists would have us believe.

“But,” I hear you cry. “Scotland doesn’t influence the outcome of UK general elections.” Yes, that is true. But then we are part of a bigger whole. We are not just Scotland. We are part of the UK. The Scottish Parliament is not representative of the whole of Scotland. The things that concern a call centre worker in Castlemilk are not necessarily the same things that concerns a crofter on the Isle of Skye.

The Shetlanders and Orcadians consistently vote Liberal Democrat yet are saddled with the current SNP administration. Is that fair to them? There are calls for Orkney and Shetland to push for a vote either for them to remain part of the UK if we vote for independence or to vote for their own independence from us. And it’s not a vain threat. If they did go, you can bet your life they’ll take their oil with them.

As a fan of the West Wing, I’m afraid the argument of us not influencing the outcome of a general election falls flat. Many states in west-wingthe USA vote the same way every single election and never get the chance to swing the election one way or the other.

Alaska only has 3 electoral votes out of 538 available. They vote Republican every time and never have their three Electoral College votes been enough to swing the election. The last time it was a particularly close vote, there was 5 Electoral College votes in it.

But do we hear Alaska screaming for independence and railing about the unfairness of it all? No because they have certain issues devolved to them but appreciate that in some cases (such as defence) they are better to be part of the greater whole.

I am willing to bide my time on voting reform and reform of the outdated House of Lords. We have been promised further devolved powers as part of the Scotland Act and certainly Labour and the Lib Dems have talked of more devolved powers.

I also believe that after the debacle of student fees in England, many people down south understand the reason for the UK to become more federalised. Maybe it is time for them to be offered their own parliament with tax raising powers and the ability to run education and health in their own way, just as the Scots, the Welsh and the Northern Irish have, without our MPs muscling in on England only votes.

The UK is far from perfect and not everyone is enamoured by Mr Cameron and his current government, but given the added cost of setting up and running two countries side by side, I’m not for chucking this baby out with its proverbial bathwater.

This blog is the personal opinion of one of our contributers and does not necessarily reflect the views of Better Together or other contributers to the blog.