Tuesday, 11 October 2011

A couple of interesting details about the referendum emerge (met with predictable unionist derision)

I'm pleased to hear the independence referendum will allow 16 and 17 year olds to vote on it. It has always seemed bizarre to me that a 16 year old can legally have sex, get married, start smoking (or is that 18 now?), and drive a motorbike, but cannot have their say on who should be running the country. This effectively says that voting requires far more responsibility than starting a family - yeah, sure it does. So, it is fantastic that 16 and 17 year olds will get to participate in potentially the most important vote of their lives, the consequences of which will shape their lives far more than those of pensioners, some of whom may not even be around to see the results of their vote.

So, it saddens me that arch-unionist Hamish McDonnell feels the need to imply that there is some sort of gerrymandering going on, by using loaded language to describe the measure, such as:
"...in an attempt to maximise nationalist support for the break-up of Britain..."

"...just one of a number of schemes the SNP leadership is working on to maximise their chances in a referendum."

Why can't the guy just report the facts, instead of having to put his unionist spin on it? This paragraph in particular just screams out "IT'S A FIX!!!!!!!!!!1111111111oneoneonewunwunwun":
Alex Salmond has made it clear that he intends to use his majority in the Scottish Parliament to drive through a new, lower voting age for the referendum because he knows that younger Scots are generally more nationalistic than their older counterparts.

I'd like to see when and where Alex Salmond "made it clear" that he was doing this just because younger voters tend to be more nationalistic. I suspect this is Hamish being his usual self. Shame on you, Hamish. Shamish?

On a similar note, the Express is reporting that Big Eck is thinking of having a second question on the referendum, and telling us that this is the SNP "wavering". We then have FAILED outgoing Labour leader Iain Gray and DISGRACED ex-Tory leader David "Taxi For" McLetchie telling us that this is the SNP admitting they won't win the referendum and that they're trying to move away from independence. What utter rubbish. McLetchie is particularly revealing about the disdain he holds for the Scottish electorate:
“By offering this option, Alex Salmond is depriving Scotland of the decisive answer it requires.”

No David, by offering this option, the SNP are allowing the people of Scotland to vote for what they actually want. Polls show that support for independence, increased powers within the union and the status quo are split roughly equally. With that in mind, it's pretty sensible to offer people the full range of options so they can properly tell us what they want. Otherwise, you get a situation like the AV referendum, where people were being asked to vote for a false choice, as many (like myself) were really wanting to vote in favour of PR, but this option was not on the table. In a straight choice between independence and the status quo, many people may vote for the status quo when really they do want increased powers, but not to the extent of independence.

This is about saying to the voters "it's your referendum, so we're giving you the choices you want to vote for". McLetchie, in his unflagging support for the union in its current guise, would prefer to deny a large proportion of the electorate the option they truly want. Such actions do not bring people towards your own point of view - they're more likely to push them away. Think about next time you're hailing a taxi, David.


  1. To be honest, I'm not so sure about extending the referendum 'franchise' down to age 16, when the voting age isn't 16.

    Would the SNP be doing this if they knew that independence were more unpopular with 16-17 year-olds than with the rest of the population? I think messing about with the voting age like this risks tarnishing any result.

  2. I disagree. I already find it bizarre that people who are legally allowed to get married and start a family (possibly the biggest responsibility a person can take on) are not allowed to vote, but this is no ordinary general election. There won't be another one along in a few years time when they're 20. It's a once in a generation event. Therefore, it's even more important that people who are old enough to legally make life-changing decisions are deemed responsible enough to help decide their country's future.

    Would the SNP do it if independence were more unpopular with these people? Who can say. But if this were true, then it would be a bit pointless anyway, as it would suggest independence is losing favour, rather than gaining traction.

    Unionism (like so many other "-isms") is dying out with the older generations. Scotland is literally "growing out of" unionism. If Scotland doesn't become independent this time round, it will the next time.

  3. "people who are legally allowed to get married and start a family"

    It could be reasonably argued, and I'd do so, that most if not all, kids are too young at 16 to start a family. It's not a good enough argument for letting kids vote - that they are already legally able to do some other thing that most kids are too immature to be doing.

    "Would the SNP do it if independence were more unpopular with these people? Who can say."

    I can hazard a guess: No.

    The franchise for the referendum should follow the existing rules for political votes. Anything else looks dodgy as hell.

  4. Tearlach Macdaid18 October 2011 22:06

    As a young man in the 70's I remember asking my dad how he voted in the mythical 1945 general election, the one that threw out Churchill and ushered in what many consider Britain's finest government.

    His reply? Well it shocked me, as at the election he was a Petty Officer with the Royal Navy, with three years service as aircrew on RN Carriers, and when the election was called was operating in the Pacific ready for the invasion of Japan, after service in the Atlantic and Med.

    Why was I shocked? Well in July 1945 he was only 20, and too young to vote.............

    I seem to remember reading about the establishments attempts to prevent extending the franchise beyond males, and ratepayers as well.

  5. xyzyzy: well, you've got a sound argument there in principle - it certainly always amuses me when people asking for a drug to be legalised say "but it's less dangerous than alcohol and nicotine", which is a reason to ban those substances, rather than legalise a load of other ones - but I don't think it works for the voting age. Perhaps 16 is too young to be starting a family (and of course, it happens even younger than that in some cases), but my point really was that 16 is an age where someone can be legally regarded as an adult in certain respects, and as such, it seems bizarre that they cannot vote. There are millions out there who are legally old enough to vote, but are too immature of mind to use it; conversely, there are many teenagers out there who are already politically aware and love to vote. Certainly, the thing I looked forward to most about becoming 18 was that I would finally be allowed to vote, as I had been wanting to vote for years. I would let 16 year olds vote, and I might even go further, but I certainly see no reason to bar 16 and 17 year olds from voting. I always thought "if I'm old enough to pay adult fares on the bus, I should be old enough to vote".

    As for your second point, well, a quick look at the Burd'z blog tells you all you need to know about the SNP's history towards 16 year olds voting. In summary, they've been in favour of it for years.

    Tearlach: you raise a good point. The political class are too comfortable with the status quo, as could be seen from their aversion to changing the FPTP system in Westminster. There are many ways in which British politics is still mired in Victorian times; we may not prevent as many people from voting as we once did, but that doesn't mean there isn't still more to do. We could do worse than begin by letting 16 year olds vote.

  6. Children are taught about politics at school. I'm not sure what the subject is called; it has at various stages been called "Civics" or "General Studies", but its title doesn't matter. In some schools they ever run mock elections and have people stand representing different political parties. Some kids get quite fired up about this.

    Then, they leave school at 16, and they forget about it. The enthusiasm dies because they are excluded from the democratic process.

    Sure,some kids are not mature enough to vote. Some adults are not mature enough to vote either. There's some right stupid 40 year olds about! Many people haven't the foggiest idea what they are voting for. Many people therefore don't bother to vote.

    Then there's the taxation and representation thing. Of course we are all paying tax from the first time we buy a lollipop out of pocket money, but a 16 year old may be paying income tax or council tax, or both. Not many are given the state of the economy, I suppose, but it is perfectly possible and some are. Why should they denied a vote?

    I suspect on the subject of the possible 3rd question, that the FM is simply addressing a democratic want. Cameron refused us a referendum that included PR because he feared that it
    would be the choice of the people; he is about to put a 3 line whip on his MPs because he fears that they will vote to come out of the EU.

    I would have voted for PR, so I deplore his disallowing the possibility. I think coming out of the EU would be a monumental mistake (for all its faults), but I still deplore his trying to rig democracy to suit what HE wants, not what the people want.

    If it is so important to stay in David, don't have a debate. If you have a debate, surely it must be free.

  7. Personally, I don't think there should be any place for 3 line whips in a supposedly democratic country. We elect MPs to represent us, not to prop up their government. At least that's how it SHOULD be...