The central motivating belief which is driving Scottish Nationalists at present is the belief that 2014 set a precedent that Scotland can become independent, and the United Kingdom can be destroyed, merely as the result of a one-off referendum, won by a simple numerical majority, on the day.
The ScotNats obsess about this, because we've set the bar so low! They obsess about it because it is so easy to jump. They only need 5% more!
We say: Never Again must 50% of the Vote on the Day, plus 1, be the Deciding Factor!
Our group, A Force For Good, believes that the idea that Britain can be broken up by 50% of the vote on the day, plus 1 person, is absurd and unacceptable.
It is absurd because it is far too easy a route. The bar is set too low. We have to put it out their reach, and then watch their enthusiasm decline.
And it is unacceptable because such a close result would leave Scotland bitterly divided.
We see the UK as a Unitary State and One Nation which cannot and should not be defeated by a simple one-off political device, such as a referendum.
We want to encourage our politicians to see the UK as a genuine Nation in and of itself, which has been politically united for centuries, and which has been uniting socially and culturally for millennia.
Our Nation must not be allowed to be broken up by such a result.
The United Kingdom has a right to be properly protected against the referendum device by a range of constitutional safeguards.
It must not be unravelled by a mere one-off referendum, won by a simple numerical majority, of those who happen to bother to vote on the day.
It has to be made more stable than that!
How to do this?
Here are some suggestions which we can start talking about!
1. Rule out a 2nd IndyRef
A separation referendum has potentially catastrophic consequences for the United Kingdom.
Therefore, the British Parliament must be fully involved and engaged.
As we have stated before, no further referendum on separation should be allowed in the lifetime of this Parliament.
2. A Four-Fifths Vote Required at Westminster in order to pass a Referendum Bill
However, if at a future date, such were being proposed then it should require a specific vote in Westminster approved by at least four-fifths of all the 650 MPs.
This majority in the British Parliament would be a recognition that the whole of the UK is adversely affected by such a referendum, and would suffer from the consequences.
(Thanks to Stay United Scotland Society, "The Oban Declaration; a Discussion Paper", 6-12-14 for suggesting this idea to us.)
A Threshold is a barrier which has to be crossed before the vote is considered to have passed.
Here are 3 examples of Threshold Requirements.
The point of these Thresholds is to ensure that the required figure is sufficiently high to indicate overwhelming support for the proposition, and ensure that the country is not bitterly divided down the middle; as would be the case if the winning margin was only a percentage point or two eg 51/49 of those who happened to vote on the day.
In effect, we can set one Threshold or a combination of all three. For example, we can have...
1. Minimum Turnout Threshold
This means that a certain percentage of the electorate needs to be required to vote for the proposition before the result can be considered.
This demonstrates that sufficient numbers of people are engaged with the issue; otherwise it should naturally fall. We suggest we use the precedent of the 2014 turnout, which means that there should be at least an 85% turnout. If not, the Separation Proposition should fall without further consideration.
2. Minimum Majority Threshold
This means a certain percentage of people on the day must vote in favour of the proposition for it to be considered.
Where can we look for precedent?
The constitution of the Scottish National Party is a suitable place to start! It states that a two-thirds (66.7%) majority of delegates present at its Conference is required to change its constitution. Yet this is the party which thinks it perfectly sufficient for the national British Constitution to be changed by the votes of 50% of the voters on the day, plus 1.
Therefore, it seems sensible that at least 66.7% of the people should be required to vote in favour of the proposition.
3. Minimum Entire Electorate Threshold
This is where a minimum percentage of the entire electorate is required to vote in favour of the proposition.
In 2014, 45% of the voters on the day voted for separation. This was 38% of the entire registered electorate. 55% of the voters on the day voted for union. This was 47% of the entire registered electorate in Scotland. Around 15% didn't vote.
In this regard, let's remember that we have the precedent of the 1979 Devolution Referendum. That proposition fell because the pro-devolution side won a very slim numerical majority on a low turnout which did not reach (the extremely low) 40% of the entire electorate requirement.
40% is very few! That's 10% less than half the entire electorate! It doesn't seem right that a proposition should pass on less than 50% of the entire electorate.
Surely if we are voting on something as earth-shattering as Scotland leaving the United Kingdom, and the United Kingdom being broken up, then the minimum electorate requirement should be at least over half of the entire electorate. That is, at least 50.01% of the entire electorate in favour!
LET'S LOOK AT SOME WORKED EXAMPLES
1. Using the SNP's own rules as a guide, 66.7% of the vote on the day should be the very minimum expected in order to pass such a controversial proposition. At a required 85% turnout, this would be 56.69% of the entire electorate ([85 divided by 100] x 66.7).
2. If we dispensed with the Minimum Turnout requirement, but kept the 66.7% figure then, if the turnout was low, they could win on considerably less than half the entire registered electorate. For example, a 60% turnout would mean them winning on only 40% of the entire electorate ([60 divided by 100] x 66.7). As we say, it seems wrong that such a massive decision could be won with the votes of less than half of the Scottish electorate!
3. If we dispensed with the 66.7% rule, and instead insisted on at least 50.01% of the entire registered electorate in Scotland being required to vote for the Separation Proposition, then
at a required 85% turnout, they would have to reach a winning figure of 58.84% of the vote on the day ([50.01 divided by 85] x 100).
4. If we dispensed with the Minimum Turnout requirement, but continued to insist on the proposition hitting at least 50.01% of the entire registered electorate – which seems extremely reasonable and really quite generous – then the required figure needed for them to win on the day would rise as the Turnout fell. For example, a 60% turnout would require 83.35% of the vote on the day to be for separation ([50.01 divided by 60] x 100).
5. If we upped the Minimum Entire Electorate requirement to 55% of the entire electorate needing to support the Separation Proposition – which seems reasonable; a small percentage over 50.01% – then it would require at least a Turnout of 55% (which would mean 100% approval)! But if the Turnout was more likely around 85% then they would require ([55 divided by 85] x 100) = 64.7% to win.
6. If we insisted on 60% of the entire electorate supporting the Separation Proposition – which again is reasonable considering the gravity of the matter – then it would require at least a Turnout of 60%, (which would mean 100% approval)! But if the Turnout was more likely around 85% then they would require ([60 divided by 85] x 100) = 70.58% to win.
The point in all this is to ensure a sufficiently high number of people in Scotland indicating overwhelming support for the Separation Proposition in order to avoid a country going into the future irreconcilably divided.
The bar must be set high! The situation at the moment where the UK can be destroyed by a mere 50% of the voters who happen to vote on the day, plus 1, is an unacceptable constitutional absurdity!
In this article on our Legacy Site we examined the "40% rule" in 1979, and the Scottish Nationalist arguments against it. "The Case for a Threshold at the 'Love the UK Day' Referendum" (4-5-12).
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