Scotland doesn’t just want another vote on independence; democracy requires it
By now we’ve all heard the same line spouted from successive unionist activists- that Scotland should not be permitted to hold a second referendum on the basis that we had one in 2014.
Laying aside the fact that a recent Ipsos Mori poll showed that 56% of Scots believe there should be a second referendum, we have to consider what it would mean for democracy if the Scottish people are denied the opportunity to change their minds.
To start with, it’s important to understand the fundamental flaw that exists at the heart of the unionist argument; for they mistake democracy as being a one-off irregular event. That’s not what it is at all; democracy does not start and end with casting our vote, rather it is a continuing and evolving process whereby the electorate of the day make decisions based on the information available to them at the time.
It’s for that exact reason that we have elections at regular intervals; because we accept that, over the course of five years or so, circumstances change, and the electorate should be able to make a decision based on those changes. It’s inconceivable that we would not seek to apply the same logic to Scottish independence; especially when the political landscape has transformed as significantly as it has.
I am, of course, talking predominantly about Scotland being dragged out of the EU against its will here. But there is also so much more to consider, we’re still waiting for the vow to be delivered, Boris Johnson (a man who called gay people ‘tank-topped bum boys’, said Muslims wearing burqas look like ‘letterboxes’, and called African children suffering with AIDS ‘aid-ridden choristers’) is now the Prime Minister, and devolution seems to be more under threat than ever.
With all of this going on, it’s clear that there has been a significant and material change in circumstances from 2014 which ought to unlock the ability of the Scottish people to reconsider their position on independence. This is a key principle upon which the SNP have fought, and won, the 2016 Scottish election and the three UK General Elections in Scotland since the first referendum.
And Scotland isn’t alone in thinking that issues should be put back to voters when there is a substantiated change in circumstances; when amendments were made to the Maastricht treaty (which created the EU from its predecessor, the European Economic Community) Danish voters approved the treaty, having rejected it little more than a year prior. Ireland has, on two occasions, held referendums on issues that the public had already voted — firstly with the Nice treaty, and secondly with the Lisbon treaty. On both of these occasions, amendments had also been made which were considered significant enough to allow the voters to think again.
What this demonstrates is that is that a second referendum would not be some unprecedented, extraordinary event — especially when you consider that the changes that warranted new referendums in Denmark and Ireland pale in comparison to the transformation that Scotland has seen in the past six-and-a-half years.
The political landscape here is completely different from the context that the 2014 referendum took place in; and, if we follow the democratic ideals pushed forward by Denmark and Ireland, then we have to arrive at the conclusion that IndyRef2 is not just a matter of policy; it is a fundamental indicator of how truly democratic we are as a nation.
Of course, unionist voices will likely seek to rebut this position by making the argument that Alex Salmond himself claimed IndyRef1 was a ‘once in a generation vote’, and he did—nobody denies that. However, Scotland has seen a much more radical distortion of the political landscape than we ever could have expected to have experienced in a generation or more. The scale and impact of the events of the last six-and-a-half years would normally be enough to fill an entire generation, or even two or three. And if we want to stick religiously by every single claim made by politicians during the first campaign, then Scotland should still be in the EU, the Scottish Parliament should have more powers rather than having powers stolen by Westminster, and we should be being treated as an ‘equal nation’.
We’re not, and so it’s time for the Scottish people to be offered the chance to reflect on whether this is the type of Scotland they voted for in 2014, and they should be afforded the opportunity to change their mind.