Thursday, 18 September 2014
Scottish Independence Referendum: two predictions
Scotland votes Yes or No to independence today. Here are two predictions.
The first, pretty well agreed, is that the the turnout is likely to be over 80%, a level not reached in general elections in the UK as a whole since the early 1950s, and a staggering increase on the 2001 election, when the turnout dipped below 60%. The reason is fairly obvious: the vote actually counts and every Scottish voter must feel that how they vote will affect the outcome.
Compare that with our general elections, when, with our simplistic first past the post electoral system the outcome in over 80% of constituencies is a foregone conclusion because the seat is "safe" for the incumbent party. Thus for the overwhelming majority of us the act of voting is merely a loyal but futile gesture in favour of our party of choice rather than something that is actually going to influence matters. That being the case, it is quite endearing that 60% of us bother to turn out at all.
The answer, is, of course, a voting system based on proportional representation by single transferable vote in multi-member constituencies. This is the system which comes nearest to making every vote count. I hope that this issue will enter the constitutional discussions which will inevitable ensue in the aftermath of the Scottish referendum, which ever way they vote.
The second prediction is that, although we are repeatedly told that the two sides are "neck and neck" (surely a more appropriate British metaphor than "too close to call" which I believe is something to do with baseball), I expect there will be a larger majority for No than the opinion polls predict. Here's why.
There is in our general elections a phenomenon known as the "shy Tory" vote: people who like in public to project an image of being up to date, progressive and keen for reform to achieve a fairer society for all but, in the privacy of the polling booth think of their own wallets, and believing (wrongly in my view) that their economic future is safer with the Tories, forget their reformist zeal and vote Conservative.
There is no doubt that the Yes campaign has gained the progressive initiative in the Scottish campaign. I had the impression in my brief visit to Scotland earlier in the year that No voters were rather reluctant to display their views, maybe even afraid of intimidation. But in the polling booth is suspect many will choose to "keep a hold of nurse for fear of finding someone worse."
I also have a sneaking suspicion that the polls and media exaggerate the closeness of the race in order to keep up the excitement and sell more papers. Maybe that's too cynical.
We shall see.