Opinion

Published on September 17th, 2014 | by Kevin Lawson

Why the Scottish Independence referendum ‘should’ change domestic politics

As the people of Scotland prepare to decide whether their nations future fortunes will continue to be as part of the United Kingdom there is a part of me that has genuinely enjoyed the discourse that has surrounded the entire process.

Whilst I won’t disclose which side of the debate I lean towards, what has seemed obvious to me is the value of referendums that make citizens consider their own place within their communities. In the face of such a blunt but powerful and society altering ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ question, those affected have had to really think about the issues caused by maintaining the status quo.

This time when they cast their vote, it won’t be a choice between politicians with whom they’ve become tired and instinctively distrust, they’ll be choosing based on the merits of an idea (or an ideology if you prefer).

It’s this debate of an idea which has captured the imaginations of the electorate, brought the best out of politicians on both sides of the debate and unsurprisingly raised the level of engagement with politics – not just in Scotland – but across the entire UK. No matter what the outcome of the vote, this referendum has been an agent of change and will see more powers devolved to Scotland (although the timescale for this is open for interpretation).

Given that only 65% of those eligible voted in the last general election, this referendum should become a model in which countries opinions of the BIG questions over social security, the NHS and other public facing services should be gathered, ideally once every year.

Imagine in 2011 if instead of asking the country to choose between first past the post and alternative vote, if the choice had simply been “Do you want the United Kingdom to alter the current “first past the post” system for electing Members of Parliament?” The question becomes less about choosing an exact solution as opposed to whether you believe their should be change and I suspect the outcome may have been different.

It’s this approach; asking people not to vote for a solution but for their opinion on an issue that could potentially affect their day to day life that I’d like to see more of in domestic politics – even if that vote was a in/out on the EU – because the resulting debate and vote will be money well spent if it engages more voters in the political process. 

So with one day left before Scotland decides, I’m revelling in every row and impassioned plea I see on social media because it’s how politics should really be.

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