It still comes up long after the original franchise for the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum was set: who gets to decide whether Scotland regains its independence or not?
Folk might think that my advocacy and membership of the Alba party means that I might have changed my mind on things other than my voting preference. In fact, I feel even more comfortable as part of Alba than I had in the SNP for a long time, a comfort I hope to affirm at the inaugural conference taking place in my own constituency of Inverclyde this September. Should the topic of whether the franchise in 2014 – that is, any adult of voting age in Scotland regardless of their national status – should stay the same for any future independence referendum, I will happily and heartily advocate that yes, it should.
My reasoning hasn’t changed, and my conclusions have not either. If you live in Scotland, you get to decide its future. That’s how it works in other independent countries, so that’s how I think it should work for aspiring-to-become independent countries.
Nonetheless, there are some in the independence movement who argue that the question should be revisited:
The other point Alf made quite forcibly was on the franchise we should use for any confirmatory plebiscite. I also now agree to this point. It should only be those born in Scotland or of Scottish parental descent that are allowed to vote in any self-determination independence plebiscite. This should be extended to the global Scottish diaspora. In 2014 53% of Scottish born voters voted YES. It was those born outwith Scotland that tipped the balance in favour of the status quo.
Now, full disclosure: my hackles spring up whenever this subject comes up, because it’s deeply emotive to me. Having said that, I do want to explore it a bit more.
Part of the reason I took such immense pride in the Yes Campaign was its inclusive nature, recognising that a nation wanting to join the modern world must act like it – and that includes the democratic right of all adults who dwell within it to contribute and have a say in the way the country they live in works. This is something which has been frustrated and denied to every Scot since 1707 – even before the time of universal suffrage, Scottish votes were being ignored. So there’s part of me who instinctively rankles at the suggestion that we Scots should deny the vote to people living in our own country – isn’t that exactly what we’re fighting against in the first place?
But I recognise the frightening times we’re living in. I share the absolute anathema at how we still aren’t collectively screaming for independence after the injustices, indignities, and outright disasters visited upon us by the robber barons of Westminster. I’m in agreement that the SNP’s strategy, whatever it might be, is not working, in times which it is difficult to imagine being more suited to campaign for independence. So I can understand how some folk in the movement may believe that desperate times call for desperate measures – and one of those is adopting a stricter franchise which specifically excludes people living in Scotland who either were not born here, or have not lived here for a sufficient amount of time:
An example of a UN supervised self-determination vote is the 2020 New Caledonia one.
That referendum was held using a special electoral roll. Potential voters needed to be registered on the general electoral roll, and also meet one of the following secondary criteria:
1. Was on the electoral roll for the 1998 referendum on the Nouméa Accord;
2. Qualified to be on the electoral roll for the 1998 referendum, but were not enrolled;
3. Failed to meet the requirements to be on the 1998 electoral roll solely due to absence related to family, medical or professional reasons;
4. Having civil customary status or born in New Caledonia and has their material interests in the territory;
5. At least one parent was born in New Caledonia and have their material interests in the territory;
6. At least 20 years of continuous residence in New Caledonia by 31 December 2014;
7. Born before 1 January 1989 and have had their residence in New Caledonia between 1988 and 1998.
8. Born after 31 December 1988 and reached voting age before the referendum, with at least one parent who was on the electoral roll (or qualified to do so) for the 1998 referendum.
These conditions for New Caledonia could be used as a starting point for any future Scottish confirmatory referendum/plebiscite.
The crux of this argument is based on the observation that a majority of voters born in Scotland voted 53% Yes in the 2014 referendum, whereas a much larger percentage of voters born elsewhere (the vast majority from England) voted No – thus transforming the Yes into a No against the wishes of voters born in Scotland. The suggestion is that if the 2014 franchise was what is being suggested – only people born in Scotland, or who have lived here for a time deemed sufficient, can vote – then that percentage would hold, and Scotland would have registered a vote for independence, and – one hopes – would be independent for years by 2021.
I must confess to having several issues with this argument beyond the emotional one. For one, Scotland is not New Caledonia (obviously, just check their holiday snaps). The circumstances of New Caledonia nationhood are fundamentally different to Scotland’s on two accounts:
1. Although I strongly support any people’s right to self-determination regardless of the status or history of the state they wish to make, New Caledonia was never an independent nation state as we understand it, and so is not comparable to a country which already was a recognised independent state for longer than it was ever part of the United Kingdom. This is not to say they are more or less worthy of independence, merely that the circumstances are different, with their own advantages and disadvantages.
2. New Caledonia is not independent. There have been 2 independence referendums so far, with a third planned for later this year: it is only this third referendum which is adhering to the above rules. It would perhaps be worth waiting for the results on the 13th December this year before we consider whether this approach would suffice to return a Yes majority.
Another issue is the assumption that the 53% of Yes-voting Scotland-born would hold up. Yet in altering the franchise, you are altering not only the outcome, but the process itself. The Edinburgh Agreement was signed in 2012: almost 2 years’ worth of campaigning remained between the signing and the vote. The assumption that the Yes vote, already massively overwhelmed by non-stop MSM propaganda, business giants, wealthy tycoons, and the massed elite apparatus of the British State, would hold firm against all that plus the disenfranchisement of people living in Scotland feeling justifiably neglected and excluded from such a historic vote?
I know many people who may not be entirely convinced on the merits of independence in and of itself who still voted Yes purely because of the existence of groups like English Scots for Yes, South Asians for Independence, Africans for an Independent Scotland, EU Citizens for Yes, and many more. How could we look those groups in the eye, offering little more than promises that their votes will matter in an independent Scotland, when we clearly don’t trust them to get us over the line to get there in the first place? How can we ask for them to campaign for a vote many of them wouldn’t be permitted to participate in?
At the same time, I do not think it fair to consider this evidence of “Blood and Soil” nationalism: it’s clear that being born in Scotland applies to any baby born here regardless of where their parents or grandparents or distant ancestors were born, and it’s clear that residents who have lived here for (as in the New Caledonia example) 20 years would not have to worry about it. But I don’t think it’s sufficient, either on a purely strategic level, nor on a democratic one.
I support Scottish Independence. Indeed, I’m so far gone that I find it difficult to respect a vote against it, if you think Scotland is a country at all. How can a vote to deny your nation democracy be considered a democratic vote at all? Voting No because you think the UK is your country and that Scotland, England, Northern Ireland, & Wales are just “regions” or countries only in the way that the West Country is – that’s at least defensible, as you’re voting for your nation to remain together. But how can anyone say “No, I don’t think my country should be run by politicians elected by the people who live in that country” without massive cognitive dissonance?
There are people who’ve just moved to Scotland who believe that Scotland should be an independent country, and by God, I value their vote a Hell of a lot more than I value the vote of some Proud-Scot-But who’s lived here all their life and can trace their family line back to the Pictish Kingdoms, yet thinks our wonderful nation should be run by the elitist psychopaths whose grip on our poor neighbours is yet to be shaken.
If we’re to win our independence, then we have to win it with all of us.