This ‘People’s Vote’ campaign is almost as nonsensical as Brexit. A referendum is the crudest of democratic instruments. It’s an axe, not a scalpel. It is only useful for binary choices where the two options are distinct, discrete and deliverable.
The 2014 independence referendum was disastrous for Scotland, not only because of the failure to secure a Yes vote, but because the implications of a No vote were all but totally unspecified. Nobody knew what a No vote meant. It was defined only as ‘Not Yes’. The No campaign was never properly scrutinised. In fact, it was barely examined. The media failed to ask any meaningful questions of Better Together or the British parties or the UK Government. They declined to challenge any of the lies, smears, threats or empty promises.
Initially, a No vote was supposed to be a vote for the status quo. But this quickly changed when the dullards running Better Together realised that this was by far the least popular option. The meaning of a No vote then became fluid. Pretty much anybody on the anti-independence side could make any claim about what would follow from a No vote. This culminated in ‘The Vow’. Within the space of less than 18 months a No vote had gone from meaning ‘no change’ to promising massive constitutional reform.
It has since become clear that the No vote was sold on a totally false prospectus. How could it be otherwise? An option which can mean anything inevitably means nothing. A No vote was effectively a vote to let the British political elite decide what you’d just voted for. It gave the British state a licence to do as it pleased with Scotland. They’d been handed a ballot that was marked with a cross but otherwise blank. They were left to fill in the details in whatever way suited them. So they’ve decided that a No vote was a vote to roll back devolution and tack forward the ‘One Nation’ British Nationalist project.
Much the same thing happened with the EU referendum. The implications of a Leave vote were never properly explored. The Brexiteers were never seriously interrogated. Not only were their plans afforded no scrutiny, for the most part they weren’t even asked if they had any plans. Once again, the mainstream media failed shamefully in its duty to inform and explain.
A Leave vote in the EU referendum ended up being an unspecified choice in much the same way as a No vote in Scotland’s first independence referendum. What ensued is a farce inside a fiasco wrapped in a bourach as the British political elite squabbles over what should fill the empty vessel of Leave and fails abysmally to find anything that will actually fit.
Now, we have this campaign for a ‘People’s Vote’. Which sounds very worthy. But which actually means only that they want to use the UK electorate as a big fist to force something into that empty vessel regardless of whether it fits or not. The very fact that it proposes three options is evidence enough of the idiocy of this campaign. Idiocy which only grows more profound as one realises that none of the three options can be anything like as tightly defined as the blunt instrument of a referendum absolutely requires.
Quite apart from the rather obvious inanity of having two Leave options and one Remain option, nobody can possibly say with any certainty what any of these options would mean in practice. Because it won’t be the voters who ultimately decide the outcome. It will be the EU. At best, people can only be voting for what they imagine is the option which comes closest to what they hope for.
A vote for the UK Government’s Leave ‘deal’ – supposing one is ever agreed – isn’t a vote for an outcome. At best, it is a vote for a negotiating position which is liable to change depending on which faction of the British political elite has the upper hand at any given time. A negotiating position which, furthermore, has already been largely rejected by the EU or is subject to severe reservations.
A vote for Leave with no ‘deal’ is even more of a mystery bundle. Although the revolting stench coming off it strongly hints at the unpleasant nature of what lies beneath the layers of packaging.
Even a Remain vote cannot be defined. Supposing it is possible to revoke Article 50 and abandon the entire Brexit mess, would this restore the status quo ante? Or might the EU impose terms? Is there the political will among the British political elite to implement such a decision? And what if Remain ‘wins’ but without an absolute majority? Pick your permutation of problematic poll results. How about 35% Remain; 35% Leave with ‘deal’; 30% Leave without ‘deal’. What is the will of the electorate?
And even in the highly improbably event that the ‘People’s Vote’ did give a clear result, what if that result serves only to confirm and emphasise the democratic inherent in the Union? What if, once again, it’s a Leave vote in England and Wales outweighing a decisive Remain vote in Scotland? Nothing is resolved. We’re back where we started.
Brexit can’t be fixed. That’s the bottom line. It simply cannot be sorted. There is no way to make it OK. The only way that Scotland can avoid being dragged down by Brexit is to cease being part of the UK. The Scottish Government must initiate the process of dissolving the Union as a matter of extreme urgency.
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