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May 04, 2007

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Paulie

As you very well know, Chris, it is possible to be a democrat while opposing the idea of referendums (referenda? I never know).

You may make the case that Direct Democracy in some forms has the virtues that you claim for it, but I'm surprised that you are weakening your case by advocating a crude plebicite on a tribal issue.

Also, having to listen to months of applied pillockery from the punditocracy will surely not do anyone's mental health any good. I don't know where you get the idea that civic virtue will be improved by a population who will largely use it (as they use many referendums) to 'send a message' on a totally different subject, and for someone who argues that decisions better made when they are seen as trade offs, I can't see how a Yes / No choice on a largley mythologised question will result in a better class of decision.

I don't know whether independence is a good idea or a bad idea, but I'd get a better view on it by being involved in a process where everyone picks a couple of hundred people to go off and consider it in detail before they make their decision for us.

It is the worst way of making the decision, of course, apart from all of the others.

Roger Thornhill

Indeed. Spot on! If anything, the referrendum would clear the air. I suppose the argument will be over the wording, but hey, if it makes people aware of the consequences of their vote, then that would be a good thing.

Might be that the Dumboldtwats prefer the once-in-five-years choice between various all-or-nothing grab-bags of compromise that keeps their gums clacking (at our expense) until the next election. Might also be why they loved PR, as that is just an invitation to endless horse-trading and compromise outside of the electorates' hands.

Some people who are "liberal" are in fact steaming autocrats inside. They want liberty but only the kinds of liberty that they have decided upon.

Roger Thornhill

p.s. Paulie makes good points about democracy in general - the advantage of representative government does offset the danger of "tyranny of the majority" which is always a problem. However, some times i think the people need to decide on certain issues that the Politicians are too squeamish to tackle or it goes against their cosy lifestyle. Examples: Switzerland voted for tougher Immigration laws and to resume their Nuclear Power programme after a 10 year moratorium.

Least worst is often all we have.

Stephen Gordon

Maybe they've been looking at the Canada/Quebec experience. We've had two referenda now, and no-one enjoys the experience. Unless the result is an easily predictable crushing majority for one side or the other, the result will be a whole whack of resentment on both sides, and no actual resolution of the problem.

Polls in Quebec consistently show that support for independence is much higher than support for another referendum.

Mark Wadsworth

What Roger says (again!).

I don't know what the Lib Dems are so scared of - it seems that considerably less than 50% of Scots really want independence, (they'd have nothing left to moan about).

tyger

I agree, Campbell should just agree to the referendum. Let the SNP cut their own throats.

Cleanthes

Paulie,

"but I'd get a better view on it by being involved in a process where everyone picks a couple of hundred people to go off and consider it in detail before they make their decision for us."

You are, of course, assuming that your couple of hundred people are a) competent, b) wise, c) informed, d) impartial/non-partisan and e) actually going to consider the matter in detail rather than shout cheap soundbites at each other.

I offer that this assumption is somewhat wide of the mark given that we are dealing with politicians, and Scottish politicians at that...

"Least worst" was never so true.

Shuggy

Maybe he opposes referenda as a matter of principle, which as Paulie points out, doesn't mean you're not a democrat. More likely, though, he's doing what many politicians do: they oppose referenda when they think they'll produce the answer they don't like and support them when they think that they will. Also in practice we've witnessed governments holding a referendum, not getting the answer they want, so holding subsequent ones until they get what they think is a suitable result. It's this sort of behaviour in the real world of actual 'direct democracy' that I've never seen you deal with in this space. Was it Atlee that called them, " the devices of dictators and demagogues"? There's a good historical reason for this.

Tom H

"You are, of course, assuming that your couple of hundred people are a) competent, b) wise, c) informed, d) impartial/non-partisan and e) actually going to consider the matter in detail rather than shout cheap soundbites at each other."

Why would anyone want them to be impartial or non-partisan? I'd quite like them to be partial and partisan, and to tell me a bit about what they think about stuff, before I vote for them. If they won't tell me what they think about important stuff, how am I supposed to know what to think about them?

Paulie

"...your couple of hundred people are a) competent, b) wise, c) informed, d) impartial/non-partisan and e) actually going to consider the matter in detail rather than shout cheap soundbites at each other."

Surely the counterfactual is that millions of people will will be more competent, wiser, more informed, more impartial (why is that a good thing?), have longer attention spans and have less of an appetite for making meaningless gestures in the decisions that they make, or that those millions of people will then personally be made to accept the blame if they take the wrong decisions (as politicians are)?

dearieme

What do you expect of a bloody Campbell?

jameshigham

The case for a referendum - not just on independence - is that more direct democracy improves mental health, increases subjective well-being, helps promote civic virtue in the long-run, and - under the right conditions - helps come to a better decision.
It's perfectly coherent therefore to support a referendum on independence but oppose independence itself.

The two parts of your argument here hold up independently but the "therefore" I can't see.

agentmancuso

Opposition to the referendum was originally based on the very sound principle that, as Holyrood has no legal authority over constitutional matters, the whole subject is simply ultra vires.

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