Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Multiple options for a multi-option referendum

OK, I can't resist, one more outing for AM2-watch. In reply to the comments on his latest post berating all three unionist parties for not getting the anti-SNP "core message" right (only a true 'Alpha Male' could imagine that three completely separate political parties are all 'off-message' just because they happen to be diverging slightly from what he personally would like them to say!) he returns to the old red herring of the possibility of independence coming about on a 'minority vote' in a multi-option referendum. The example he gives is one in which independence and the status quo both received 35% of the vote on the first count, and the option of greater powers for the devolved parliament received only 30%. In this scenario, the second preference votes of those who voted for enhanced devolution would decide the result, and it would be perfectly conceivable that they could break in favour of independence. This is not AM2's "idea of democracy", he sniffs. The trouble is this result would perfectly accurately reflect what people had actually voted for - so what exactly is AM2's idea of democracy?

People wouldn't go into the voting booths with their eyes closed. Someone who supported enhanced devolution would know perfectly well that they were answering the question 'if your preferred option is no longer possible, would you prefer the status quo or independence?'. It may seem incredible to AM2 that such a person would opt for independence in response to that question, but if they did so in all conscience where is the problem? How would a majority obtained in that situation differ from one obtained in a single-option referendum on independence where supporters of enhanced devolution would still effectively be giving their second preference? Actually, the only difference is they wouldn't have the opportunity to express their first preference - how is that any more 'democratic'?

But there's a simple antidote to these utterly bogus objections to a multi-option referendum - and that is to conduct it under a run-off system. If none of the three options achieves an absolute majority, a second ballot would be held a week later to choose between the two most popular options. Then, everyone would know exactly where they stand, and there could be no question of anything going through "by the back door" or "on a minority vote".


  1. AM2's preferred option is that no one gets an option.

  2. Ha ha scunnert, very true. It's all rather sad because so many of my unionist friends now say they'd be happy to have the referendum.

  3. Who is AM2 ? Is he some sort of spoof comedian ?

    Honestly his take on the SNP is getting more desperate by the day. What happened to him at School?, did someone kick him in the balls and shouted, "Independence to your left testicle"

  4. Two conditions have to be met in order for a third option to go on the ballot paper.

    It has to be a well defined option. Not something like, "More powers", or, "Enhanced Devolution", it has to be spelled out in detail somewhere exactly what is on offer instead of the status quo or indpendence.

    Then the Government of the day in Westminster has to agree to implement the third option to the letter before the referendum takes place if that is the way the vote goes.

    The problem for the third option proponents is that the Calman Commission which was instituted to provide the third option has rejected fiscal-autonomy in pretty much any form and looks likely to come up with something which is the status quo with a few bells and ribbons on it. This will not be an option which will be radically different from the status quo and may not even be worth putting on the referendum.

    There is also no guarantee that any incoming Conservative Government would agree to implement the Calman proposals especially as the Conservatives in Scotland haven't even bothered to submit anything to it. Not a good omen.

    If we get an independence referendum I'm not convinced it will have a third option on it.

  5. Hi Scot,

    I would normally rather that you did not refer to AM2's blog as it just encourages him. I stopped submitting comments to it some time ago for that reason, however this time I have to concede that you have constructed a very good artice out of it and generated some excellent comments.

    I concur with Dug's view about Calman. Since the SNP formed the Scottish Government any appetite for further devolved powers within Westminster (especially within the ranks of the Scottish Labour MP's) has evaporated completely.

    Calman will therefore be very reluctant to recommend anything much in the way of additional powers, (the Clunking Fist has already indicated he does not want this) and might actually be resisting pressure to recommend a reduction. Similarly, if "Call me Dave", as expected, forms the next government before a future settlement is established, I expect that he would pursue it with all the vigour of a dead cat. History gives a precedent here in Thatcher's lack of action after the 1970's referendum.

    Forget trying to get Devolution Max. It ain't gonna happen. Campaign for Independence.