Thursday, 13 October 2016

Our pick-'n'-mix democracy

Earlier this week our central government overruled the the clearly expressed wishes of most of the residents of the Fylde, a coastal part of  Lancashire, and of their elected county council representatives, and gave permission for private extraction companies to go ahead with fracking.

Curiously, when local residents object to the erection of wind turbines in their area, they have the last word - the government does not have the power to overrule them.

Some of the objectors to fracking, aware of the possibility of contamination of their water supplies, minor earthquakes, escapes of methane gas and the despoliation of their surroundings, could be motivated by NIMBY -ism (not in my back yard).  But many will surely believe that, at a time when the effects of climate change are becoming increasingly obvious, we should not be seeking to exploit yet another carbon-based fuel, but instead be exploring and developing techniques for harnessing renewable energy (my own favourites are wave and tidal power).  Most will have objected for a mixture of motives.

However the objections to wind turbines can only be the selfish NIMBY ones -  that they look a bit ugly and make a bit of noise.

Surely in all logic the power of the government to overrule "in the national interest" (indeed, the planet's interest) should apply to the wind turbines rather than the fracking.

Here's another anomaly.  When the first referendum on devolution to of powers to Scotland was held in 1979 a condition was written in that at least 40% of the total eligible electorate should have voted in favour for a "Yes" vote to be valid.  The result was 51.62% in favour and 48.38% against - a margin not all that dissimilar to that  in the recent EU referendum..  However, since the turnout in this Scottish referendum was 64% the "Yes" vote amounted to only 33% of the eligible electorate, so the result was invalid.

In the recent referendum on EU membership 51.9%  of those who  voted opted for "Leave".  The turnout was 72.2%.  So those in favour of BREXIT represented only 37.5% of those entitled to vote. Had the "Scottish rule" been applied  to the EU referendum the BREXIT vote, too, would be invalid.

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