….no link for this post – if you can’t find some information about the referendum on the BBC or another reputable news site, you probably shouldn’t be studying politics!
So the results are in and Scotland have voted no…probably a huge relief for PM Cameron, and certainly a wealth of evidence for your exams. So much in fact, it is broken down below in to little chunks – these are in no particular order! There is so much that is relevant to almost every topic that we study…you must know this!
- Unit 1 Elections – The number of registered voters in Scotland was 97%, a record high. This is great evidence for participation in politics. The turnout is (currently) at nearly 85% which is equally astounding and suggest that using referendums as a way to get people involved in politics can be effective.
- Unit 1 Elections – The ‘No’ vote – the split of No/Yes votes was 55/45% – this was a much bigger gap than that which many people predicted (but exactly what I predicted I would like to add!!). A key thing this therefore underlines is the flaws of opinion polls. In the run up to the election, all the talk was of how close the vote was but without reference to the 1/3rd of Scottish people who were undecided. Equally, this is quite a clear cut result, giving a mandate to the ‘No’ vote.
- Unit 1 Elections/Parties – West Lothian question – Cameron seized a political opportunity in his speech this morning to draw attention to the West Lothian question (the idea that on English only matter, currently, every MP in the UK can vote, yet Wales, Scotland and Ireland have their own assemblies on which English MPs cannot vote). He has suggested a solution to this problem for the English on the same time scale as the Scottish devo-max. With William Hague running a committee to draw up solutions, we could therefore expect a white paper by January. This does raise the question however of having an election for Westminster and an election for an ‘English Parliament’ meaning you could have two different parties in power in England. Also, in an ‘English Parliament’ the Labour party would find it much more difficult to gain a majority as many of their heartland MPs come from Wales and Scotland. It is also worth noting that all three party leaders went to Scotland and agreed to ‘devo-max’ – this shows some level of bipartisanship set against the usual adversarial party politics in the UK.
- Unit 1 Elections (Devolution) – Just a note to remember that the next Scottish election is due in 2016, but in the immediate aftermath of the ‘No’ vote the SNP were still holding their popularity. This remains impressive, that they achieved a single party majority in a system designed to achieve greater proportionality and not really to deliver a single party government.
- Unit 1 Parties – It is worth thinking about the timescale that Cameron has laid out in terms of party politics, especially with an election coming up next year. On the one hand, it could be viewed that Cameron is trying to ensure that this is done before the election of May 2015 as the polls are not looking spectacular at the moment for this. Equally, many of his own backbenchers were unhappy that a referendum had been allowed and felt that allowing Scotland more powers to keep them was not right. Therefore, Cameron’s focus on the West Lothian question could be seen as plea to unity in his own party.
- Unit 1 Parties – UKIP. Vernon Bogdanor, a well-known constitutional scholar, was asked for comment on the BBC this morning and his view was that UKIP could be real winners out of this decision. He pointed especially to the upcoming Clacton by-election and that there was a potential that UKIP could win here.
- Unit 1 Referendums – One thing to remember, which most of the news outlets seem to have forgotten, is that referendums are not legally binding. It would have been a brave PM who, in the face of a ‘yes’ vote, then said there would not be independence! Nonetheless, it is not binding; it could even be argued with 55% voting ‘No’ this is quite a clear majority. Equally, on the BBC news this morning a commentator said that the 55% that voted ‘No’ did not know what they had voted for – a criticism of the vague plans for ‘devo-max’. This is wrong! The 55% who voted ‘No’ have simple voted ‘No’ for independence – anything beyond this, such as ‘devo-max’ were simply campaign promises (no even manifesto promises, and we have recently discussed how fluid these documents are). Just be sceptical of the analysis you hear in the coming days.
- Unit 2 The PM – A common question is the PM acting presidentially. It is interesting to compare this to Cameron’s speech this morning in which he passionately plead his case for an answer to the West Lothian question, saying that he has always believed this is a problem that needs solving, and he has tasked William Hague with coming up with a solution in this small timescale.
- Unit 2 The Constitution – Obviously this has a massive link to the Unit 2 topic of the UK Constitution. Cameron’s speech was being deemed by Peter Hennessy as the ‘Downing Street Doctrine’ moments after it had been given. The idea of this being a new constitutional settlement is being widely touted this morning. Many political commentators have already commented that created new constitutional settlements, even new constitutional conventions, should take a long time as they need to be designed to last. There has been some concern expressed at the timescale that Cameron has put forward as being to quick for such important decisions.
- Unit 2 Parliament – There are many notes that could be added here (such as the Lords Select Committee on Scottish Independence). However, a key function of Parliament is accountability, yet last week the PM (and Clegg and Miliband) chose not to attend PMQs to go and campaign in Scotland. This could therefore be a useful example to further question the effectiveness of PMQs as a check on executive power.
That’s enough for now!