Full Fiscal Autonomy: Is it possible in the near term for Scotland?
On the surface it would appear the first reaction is no, not with all three Unionist, London controlled parties having a very significantly vested interest against it. It presently appears the best Scots can hope for is some type of modified Scotland Bill with “inherent damage control”. This mainly because the individual party members of the Labour, Tory or Lib-Dem political organizations have a tendency to proclaim that service to the electorate may well come a very distant second to personal advancement. This advancement has been clearly demonstrated by many in these parties to be local politics, followed by regional politics, then national politics, with regional equating to Scotland or Wales, and national being perceived as Westminster. For many in these parties the benefit of the constituents, as most recently demonstrated by Mr. Devine is certainly not foremost.
Let’s then put the Scots voters, and their wishes, back at the heart of our electoral system, rather than the callousness and self interest of puppet political parties.
The issue becomes how to get the Will of the People (who in Scotland are categorically Sovereign) to be internationally recognized when even its own London centric dominated Parliament will not permit legitimate questions to be asked of its constituent populace. Certainly this cannot be a sign of a parliament representative of a sovereign people, when poll after poll demonstrates their wishes for more autonomy, and yet their elected representatives refuse to consider, en masse, such a proposal to be put to the very people who elected them? A London centric media with an almost universally acknowledged bias is certainly no assistance to the rights and political engagement of the average Scot, and when added to entrenched dogma as clearly demonstrated in historical voting trends and styles, creates a trifecta that is nearly impossible to overcome. I say nearly impossible as it has been done once so far, with the current SNP administration being elected; it’s time to do it again!
It’s time to use the Ballot Box, in May 2011, but simply not as London dictates.
Initial appearances show that in this approach there may well be a way to stop the Scotland Bill in its tracks, and expand the current proposals that are being shamefully expounded in Holyrood by tactics including intimidation, railroading and ambush of committee witnesses who might voice another opinion. What’s being proposed here is an approach that has no guarantee of success, nor is it likely be a simple process, but at a minimum the brief sub-campaign outlined below would certainly cause consternation in Westminster and may even go a long way help stopping the perceived Con-Dem [Dis]respect agenda(s).
It is time to turn the tables.
So – FFA, is it possible in the almost immediate future, it has to be a resounding YES it is! Scotland at this particular, possibly unique instant in her present history, has been gifted just such an opportunity to express her collective will. Due to the recent election results in Westminster and her forced merger of parties [however temporary or fluid] there’s a need for a referendum on Alternative Voting. That referendum has been set [the respect agenda issue again] for the same day as the Scottish Government Elections. This in effect means that there is a threefold opportunity for Scottish self awareness, with no obvious potential downside. Instead of complaining about the disrespect, its time Scots started using it, demanding its use, for their own benefit.
We should be examining holding a referendum within the referendum
The first obvious question is how this is achieved without spoiling the paper itself, and to answer that we first need to look at what constitutes a “spoiled” paper. Simply put it’s by not marking the paper in a way that the voters’ wishes are made clear, and as stated by Alex Ferguson in Parliament after the 2007 debacle.
“My key message is that the voters themselves should be at the heart of our electoral system. In 2007, we got it wrong because the complex ballots and time-saving counting methods were there to make things easier for those of us involved in the political process, not necessarily for the voters.”
It’s significant to note that electronically rejected or “spoiled” papers were/are hand counted in an effort to understand the wishes of the voter: It’s therefore reasonable to infer that no matter what one puts on the paper is largely irrelevant as long as the line item is marked in the correct way and that line item remains unaltered – it’s a valid vote! One can even mark the ballot paper on the reverse side, completely voiding any accusation of it being “spoiled” or “de-faced”
Should this thought gain popular support, what type of media spin would be placed upon this act, will attempts be made to outlaw “spoiling” or “defacing” of referendum papers in any fashion. Is there even time for such legislation? How does any government outlaw the potential mark on the back which will obviously not impact the result on the front without de-legitimizing democracy itself? One thing governments fear, and this is no weak statement, is the unified voice of the people. What may be even more intriguing, and depending upon the viewpoint possibly entertaining, would be the reaction of Westminster and the London centric media as word of this grass roots campaign spreads, which it will – after all how does one suppress it without drawing attention to, and yet as it’s something which can’t be ignored there’s a bit of a cleft stick involved.
The next stage is implementation, and that’s where a probably unique opportunity arises as we know all the main parties will have activists at almost every household in the country, and there’s a probable good cross section of these people in any political party who think FFA is a good thing. As activists go door to door they can promote this, or spoil the paper in protest should the voter wish, but spoil it indicating FFA. Emphasize though that the vote need not be spoiled, and their voice will still count – but twice over. The only foreseeable advantage to “spoiled” papers is an almost instant count.
Of much greater importance is that these papers are in an official referendum – that count will be an official count, even if slightly delayed. The ballot papers will be preserved. The Government must act or be guilty of a failed Democracy.
A recount (sanctioned and engineered by whatever means) could be required in Scotland to include the FFA statements, and the results would be interesting at the very least. It would certainly appear more productive than simply spoiling a paper or refusing to vote.
In an ideal world there would be a simple small sticker available to be placed on the reverse of the ballot paper – they’d all be the same and indicate uniformity of action, which would be fundamental. Even writing FFA could suffice.
FFA would probably satisfy the average Scots’ voter, after all no one is arguing for Independence, and they’ll not be breaking any laws per-se, but what they will be doing is expressing their OWN sovereignty saying they expressly want something. The fundamental question(s) could be as simple indeed as “Do you believe your family should be shielded to the maximum extent possible from the austerity cuts? Should Scotland only give the money to England that she can afford to and decides is appropriate, after she cares for you, her own?”, if so mark FFA somewhere, anywhere on the AV paper. Any opposing factions would then have to provide a constructive believable argument as to why Scots should suffer when they’re in surplus?
At the very least, if the above campaign is enhanced by Social Media such as Facebook and Twitter, email etc, it will give our voters who have entrenched their voting styles an opportunity to think, consider and reflect. Most will probably not alter their parliamentary vote, after all there’s no need to do that here, but enough might to surprise us all. Even if the main election result is unchanged from what history would otherwise record, it certainly serves notice to Westminster in general and Labour in particular, that politics in Scotland will no longer be “business as usual”, with the SNP but a temporary “Blip”.
Can it be done? – A question that can only be answered by us Scots ourselves, we who have en mass consistently demonstrated that entrenched voter apathy enhances the establishment. Estimating there’s about twenty thousand confirmed Scots who would support this and work for it as a viable next step, a concerted underground campaign should mean that if each person contacted just a few dozen, and each activist who believes this (of whichever party) spread this message during campaign season, there’s no doubt the message will be heard. After the message is delivered, Democracy is most certainly in play!
The English have been quoted to say “Scots vote with their pockets” – Time for truth?
The only certainty – if we don’t try, we’ll never succeed.