Majoritarianism and the #IndyRef

The most recent polls indicate that the outcome is likely to be extremely close. If the vote is Yes, it will be with a very slim majority – one or two percent. Although the Yes side will see this a mandate, this is likely the worst possible outcome. A minority of perhaps 49% will have a dramatic change in their constitiutional arrangements – and many other things – forced upon them via a process which has not tried to foster a broader consensus.

The highly negative campaigning on both sides – but especially on the part of the Yes campaign, where dissenters are classed as ‘bullies’ and all sorts of dubious assertions are made – does not bode well for an open and inclusive process of reinventing Scotland as an independent country. The No side, in a panic over recent polls, has started to promise more powers to Scotland in the event of a No victory. It is unfortunate that this did not happen in a much more systematic and principled way earlier on. If it had, people might have had a more realistic idea of the future possibilities.

And if there had not been such an immediate rush to independence, there might have been more time to create a broader consensus on the need to break away and create a new country which would make creating that country an easier and more positive experience. Strict majoritarian democracy has its positives, but it also has its negatives, including leaving behind very large and unhappy minorities – which, in the end, could undermine the nation- and state-building project.

Either outcome is going to result in a very large unhappy minority. Scotland will not be the same after 18 September. Let’s hope that both sides can move forward positively, whatever the outcome, and contribute to a renewed and reinvented Scotland.

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