In case you’re wondering about the title of this post, it refers to this video, by someone called Brad, who has a girlfriend called Jen who seems to have voted Leave (or “refeyendum out” as she terms it) in the recent EU Referendum mainly because she thought this would mean that she wouldn’t have to “watch the Euros next years ‘cos England won’t be in it.” Her other reasons involved something to do with eggs, and Disneyland. There’s even a hashtag for the video
IMHO, we should have no more referendums, or at least no more for a long, long time, because:
We can clearly see that referendums are divisive. In the recent past, we’ve seen old being set against young, region set against region, rich against poor, friends and families falling out, and divisions based on educational level. None of this is good or healthy or makes for a better life. I know several people who are no longer friends because of the referendums. After each recent referendum there has been some violence – not a large amount, but some – and beneath the surface is obviously massive frustration, on both sides, which has largely been triggered by the referendums and the fallouts from the votes. Referendums polarise opinion, in an unhealthy way. There have been public examples of racism once the results have been announced. Racists and extremists seem to have been encouraged by the referendums. In today’s day and age, and with all the things that are going on in the world, we should be trying to bring people together, rather than encouraging a more divisive society.
A fair number of people don’t seem to have a clue what they are voting for in referendums. If you accept that there will likely be some informed opinion on either side of a referendum issue, then to a great extent each cancels out the other, and what we’re left with are those with less clue, folk like Jen, etc, or those who make their minds up at the last moment, who can actually swing the vote either way. Remember that Jen’s vote counts just as much as your vote. There seems to have been a large number of people in the recent referendum who were undecided and then made their minds up at the last moment. This can’t be a healthy way to decide long term constitutional issues. In the most recent referendum, some people probably voted one way or the other because they liked, or didn’t like, Boris. During the Scottish Referendum, I listened to people say they would vote in a particular way because they had heard Andy Murray being described by some media commentator as British, rather than Scottish. These are not the sorts of things that should influence important and irreversible constitutional issues, yet they do. It would appear from the most recent referendum at least that a fair number of folk are pretty gullible, and believe obvious porkies such as that the £350 million a week that the UK supposedly paid to the EU could easily be transferred to the NHS. Realistically, you can’t possibly police what is said during referendums.
Connected to the last point is the fact that there would appear to be little or no ongoing responsibility for many of those involved in referendums. For example, look at Nigel Farage – disappeared over the horizon, and for him there’s no continuing responsibility. People like that (and it’s not restricted to Farage) can say what they want during referendum campaigns, whether it is accurate or not.
Referendums encourage and can almost certainly be influenced/decided by short-term anti-establishmentarianism. I don’t fully understand the reasons for what is largely a recent phenomenon. But we’ve seen that a number of people seem to have voted Leave not because they really wanted the UK to leave the EU, but because they wanted to register a vote against the current political establishment. In a lot of cases, I believe, people voted Leave because they didn’t like Cameron. This sort of thing can’t be a healthy way to decide important long-term constitutional issues. Referendums are a very imperfect way to decide important issues.
Young Scots aged 16 and 17 can vote in Scottish elections and referendums but they could not vote in the EU referendum because voters had to be at least 18. This is madness! Either you’re old enough to vote or you are not. It might actually have swung the recent EU referendum the other way, to Remain, if 16 year olds had had a vote throughout the |UK (because we are told that younger people were much more likely to vote Remain). If there’s a further Scottish referendum then 16 and 17 year olds in Scotland will be allowed to vote. If, somehow, there was also a different UK referendum on the same day, these people would not be allowed to vote in that one. Unlike in general elections, Commonwealth citizens in Gibraltar were allowed to vote in the EU referendum. This confused situation is not a healthy way to decide constitutional issues, and once again, it highlights the imperfections of referendums.
The BBC is required to be impartial during referendums. This is as it should be. It means that if one side is reported as saying something on an issue, then the opposing side is given the opportunity to counter the argument. This is as it should be. But unlike general politics and at general elections, referendum arguments are diametrically opposed on one single question, and this seems to confuse a lot of people. Joe says something for some reasons, Josephine says the exact opposite for other reasons, (or vice versa) and the BBC reports both, as it must. Many voters seem to find this confusing. One result is that personalities can consequently become very important. There are no manifestos, as there are in general elections. None of this is healthy, IMHO.
The recent EU Referendum seems to have been decided largely by opinions on the current immigrant situation, rather than broader constitutional issues. Free trade and free movement of people were tied together. You can believe, or not believe in free trade. You can believe, or not believe, in the free movement of people (within the EU, for example). But the two don’t absolutely have to be connected. You can have free trade without free movement of people (though not, at the present time, within the EU). In the recent referendum many people voted the way they did because of concerns about immigration rather than for broader constitutional issues.
Referendums can cause constitutional turmoil and ongoing uncertainty which can last for many years. This isn’t healthy.
Imagine if there was another Scottish referendum, next year as has been suggested by Scotland’s First Minister. The result could be very similar to the last one. Or, the No majority could be a bit smaller, in which case, presumably, this would encourage the demand for yet another one. We’d then definitely get into a neverendum situation, with all the uncertainties that this would mean. Or, there might be a Yes majority. That Yes majority would almost certainly be narrow, which would mean that a very significant proportion of Scottish people would have their constitutional situation permanently changed against their wills. That would not be healthy. Remember, only 41.6% of the Scottish electorate voted Remain in the recent EU referendum, and a minority of the electorate would almost certainly decide the outcome, one way or another, in a future Scottish referendum. A minority of the electorate (but a majority of those who vote) could decide that Scotland should leave the UK. Of course, you could argue that the current situation means that a lot of Scottish people don’t have their first choice constitutional situation. But, say in the next, or next-but-one Scottish referendum, there was a narrow margin for leaving the rest of the UK, then there would be a very good logical case for having yet another referendum in a further few years to see whether opinion had changed again. Such ongoing uncertainties are not healthy.
The recent EU Referendum has been criticised because many people didn’t seem to realise what a Leave vote would actually mean. In the case of a second Scottish Referendum within the next few years, we would not actually know what we might be leaving, because it will take a considerable length of time to work out the details of Brexit and then see the results of the negotiations work themselves out. It would not be healthy to have a referendum before it was very clear what the ongoing situation was.
We should be very, very wary about anyone who asks for another referendum. Presumably, those who advocate a second Scottish referendum in the near future are prepared to create further divisions within the country, are prepared to take advantage of gullible people, are keen to cash in on what is almost certainly temporary anti-establishmentarianism, and so on.
I for one have had enough referendums!