11 Reasons a Yes Vote Will Improve Democracy

There are lots of reasons to Vote Yes in next months referendum, but some of the most compelling arguments are for the impact it will have on our democracy, not just in Scotland but across the UK. If we can show Westminster that there is truly another way to do things, then the argument for reform in that parliament grows even stronger.

1. We will have a written constitution, led by the people

Image from Kim Davies

The Scottish Government have already begun this process and with a Yes vote there will be a constitutional convention to further develop that process of creating a constitution that captures the rights and qualities which belong to all the people in Scotland. This will be an open public process where everyone has a chance to have a say.


2. The House of Lords will have no power in Scotland

State opening of Parliament 2013

With a Yes vote, we remove any constitutional power held by the House of Lords. They will immediately become an irrelevance to Scotland except for where they hold great tracts of the country in their private accounts. Scotland will be able to create a system that is modern, fit-for-purpose and accountable to the people. This could take the shape of a fully elected second-chamber, a committee of legal experts to scrutinise legislation or even a jury system. With a written constitution to guide them, we can ensure this level of Government acts in the interests of the people and not their pockets.

3. More representation in Europe DIGITAL CAMERA

Scotland is currently represented by 6 MEP’s, the same as Malta. With independence we would expect this to rise to 12 or 13 in line with countries such as Denmark. A definite democratic bonus of Independence.


4. Decentralisation for the economy across UK

Newcastle_Quayside_with_bridges The UK economy is focussed on the City of London and maintaining this institution. Everything else is secondary, bar perhaps Defence and the Arms Trade. The only way to break this is for economic redistribution and the only contender for this is Scotland due to it’s geographic, economic and social position within the UK, Europe and the rest of the World.

An independent Scotland with closer links to Arctic nations and Northern Europe would be a in a strong position to draw investment away from London, linking up with cities in Northern England such as Newcastle. This would help to reduce economic inequality and hopefully bring a rebalancing of economic activity in Britain.

A democracy with all the economic, democratic and social power held within one geographic area is no real democracy.


5. Possibility of forming closer political links with northern Europe and arctic nations


Scotland would not be isolated through independence, it would instead be joining the world stage as an equal among other nations and so would have an opportunity for greater links with other nations. The most obvious of these is of course the nations in Northern Europe and across the Arctic Circle. Iceland has already indicated it would welcome Scotland’s involvement in the Nordic Council, as have prominent Danish politicians. This would mean greater co-operation between governments and increasing influence for Scotland in Northern Europe.



6. Scotland would get the government it votes for, every time.


This one is simple. Scotland doesn’t vote for Conservatives (currently 1 MP in Scotland – David Mundell) but has consistently seen a Conservative government sitting in Westminster with power over Scotland. With independence this ceases to be an issue, Scotland will get the government it votes for all the time.

In 14 of the last 18 General Elections the votes in Scotland made no difference to the outcome. And with FPTP we have a voting system which means policies are given the go ahead depending on how popular they are in key marginal seats. Politics in the UK is focussed on winning these seats in the England, not the meagre 59 in Scotland.


7. Increased local democracy


With a Yes vote we can take steps to devolve meaningful power to communities across Scotland, not just in planning but also in welfare and other areas where communities are best placed to identify and solve the problems facing them. The Scottish Government’s “Lerwick Declaration” committed the SNP to reviewing the powers held by local authorities with a view to devolving additional powers to communities. Parties like the Scottish Greens are already committed to increasing participatory democracy in communities and there is a growing demand from campaigners such as Lesley Riddoch to break the centralisation that the UK has gone through over the last 30-40 years.

Scotland currently has 1 elected local politician to every 4270 people, whereas countries like France have 1 for every 120. There is likely a middle ground here that can deliver far greater participation in democracy while also maintaining an efficiency of public service. We can reform local democracy now of course, but only with full powers being given to the Scottish people can we properly review the powers used at a local level and how they link with a Scottish Parliament. Could we give councils more control over welfare and taxation?


8. A chance to create a modern democratic system almost from scratch


Scotland already has a parliament, but a fully functioning democracy is more than just its main legislature. Independence means we have the opportunity to rethink our whole democratic structure from local communities up to the Scottish Parliament. We can truly develop a system that is fit for the modern world and which takes cues and lessons learned in other parliaments, not traditions and ceremonies. Placing sovereignty with the people, not the parliament, means our democratic system will be adaptable and able to be changed if the people of Scotland demand it. Few countries get this amazing opportunity for reform.

9. Scotland will no longer have policies imposed on it which its people and politicians oppose


In recent times, Scotland’s MP’s have voted as a majority against austerity, trident renewal, higher rate of VAT, the Bedroom Tax, welfare cuts and the privatisation of the Royal Mail. All of these have gone ahead in Scotland despite being opposed by Scottish MP’s in Westminster.


10. Policies that take into account Scotland’s geographic and social issues


The people of Scotland are just like everyone else in the world, on the whole we believe in a fair society and want to look after the poor or vulnerable within that society – just as many in England, Wales, Norway, France, USA, Egypt, Kenya and every other country in the world do. What makes Scotland unique is it’s combination of social and geographic issues. You can’t just implement policy that is designed for one country and hope it works in Scotland too.

Independence means we can elect representatives with a mandate to tackle issues relating to the higher cost of delivering public services in Scotland due to it’s vast empty spaces, the problems recruiting Health and Education professionals to rural locations in Scotland, the crippling poverty and health issues affecting our inner cities and so on. To properly tackle these issues Scotland needs to control areas such as immigration, welfare and even defence – for a small country like Scotland need not spend such eye-watering sums of money on weapons of mass destruction, when it has a male life expectancy in parts of it’s biggest city lower than that of Iraq. In the absence of federalism, Independence is the only solution to this problem. Scotland needs to control these levers so that it can properly bring industry back to rural Scotland; take action to stop young people leaving our communities; ensure rural Scotland grows and gives families the opportunity to grow up in the communities they hold dear.

Immigration means we can grow our economy as our population grows older by bringing in more tax paying workers. Controlling welfare means we can reshape the way our poorest and vulnerable are supported in society, and give communities the power to tackle the social issues which lead to our crippling health problems across Urban Scotland. Defence means we can cease spending on Trident and illegal wars, creating a defence force that is actually suitable for Scotland – small naval vessels and an air force designed for coastal patrol and support. This isn’t rocket science, it’s just making a democracy that recognises the different challenges countries face.

11. We will no longer be tied to the tradition, pomp and ceremony of the British State


Honestly, do we need Black Rod? Is it ok to spend tax receipts on the upkeep of palaces for the Royal Family? Does the speaker of the House of Commons really need a number of assistants in weird antique coats? It’s about time we entered the modern world and had a legislature that truly represented people in Scotland, not the landowners of a bygone era. We might one day even hold a vote on an elected head of state…


David Officer
National Collective

All images from Wikimedia Commons


There are 13 comments

  1. original_fatbadger

    I’ve been banging on about this to anyone who will listen: why is it that the word “democracy” has barely been heard, on either side, in this campaign? It’s the reason for my vote, and I think many, many people want to hear about these core political principles because they, too, vote on the basis of them, not sectional matters like the economy. At the core of politics we should always be talking about political principles; in a country that calls itself a democracy, then it is democracy – how we can improve it, grow it, preserve it – that should be at the centre of all that we do.

    But it hasn’t been.

    Personally, I support the White Paper’s stated aim of a unicameral, fully-elected parliament for an independent Scotland. But when I try to make that case with people, I find that many are terrified of a unicameral parliament. “What about checks and balances?”, they say. So it strikes me that it would be an obvious topic on which BT can campaign. Why haven’t they? Is it because they think that people don’t care? Is it because they are scared of opening up that debate, knowing that the Westminster system – most obviously the House of Lords – is indefensible? We all know that scrutiny at Holyrood is pretty weak (evidence: the Children’s and Young Person’s Bill). ‘No’ could use that in its campaign; and those of us who do care about democracy and its workings could use the independence debate to raise the need for greater scrutiny in an independent Parliament, putting pressure on the proposed constitutional assembly by having the debate out there already. If it’s a No on the 18th, we can have raised that debate for the UK, keeping democracy on the agenda, because the Westminster model is utterly unsustainable and needs reform, desperately.

    Democracy matters, and should have been at the heart of the debate.

  2. Dodgy Jammer

    If Scotland votes Yes, independence is what will happen, not necessarily democracy. The will of the people isn’t enough to guarantee they will get what they want; quite the opposite when negotiations with rUK begin. I predict it will get very hostile and a lot of people will feel angry and let down. There will be widespread civil disturbances, possibly culminating in social breakdown, and there will be economic bankruptcy when Salmond discovers he doesn’t have the income to pay for his dream. Sadly there will be no going back; Scotland will have to rebuild herself as a nation and this will take decades. Call it “project fear” if you like… I call it realism.

    My simple definition of democracy is people getting what they want. I don’t think anyone would want this.

      1. Dodgy Jammer

        I think widespread social disruption is certain. Martial law? Hopefully not but I wouldn’t rule it out entirely.

        I believe some people are massively underestimating the impact of independence based on nothing more than wishful thinking. When Westminster doesn’t kowtow to Alex Salmond’s demands and it dawns that he has been writing cheques he can’t cash, people are going to start getting angry.

        I guess you think I’m being extreme – perhaps even paranoid – but this is a really, really big deal for Scotland and I have grave concerns that it’s not going to work. Some really fundamental questions have not yet been answered, at least not to my satisfaction. I’m an economist, by the way.

        1. David Officer

          I think you’re both being extreme and paranoid, possibly even cynically scaremongering.

          I don’t think there’s any questions that genuinely haven’t been answered as best as can be. Any uncertainties that remain are down to elections in 2016 or the position of the UK government.

          As per the Edinburgh Agreement, both governments have agreed to abide by the decision and negotiate in good faith. Once the result is declared I would hope pragmatism prevails and we all work towards a transition that is fair, causes minimal disruption to the business of both states but also ensures the best deal for Scotland. There will be compromises, consensus building and, hopefully, a bit of imagination, but I don’t think there will be rioting on the streets and mass disorder. Or are you suggesting the Prime Minister is prepared to back out of the Edinburgh Agreement he signed?

          1. Dodgy Jammer

            Essentially the Edinburgh agreement states that the results of the referendum will be honoured and negotiations will be constructive. It doesn’t state that Westminster must accept the terms of Alex Salmond, some of which are totally unreasonable for the rest of the UK. Salmond claims that rUK should accept the sovereign will of the Scottish people, but unfortunately he tends to forget about the sovereign will of the remaining 95% of the UK population.

            Let’s take currency as a prime example. A bit boring, I know, but pretty important.

            The rUK position on this is clear. Understandably, all main UK parties have stated explicitly that they will not operate currency union with an independent Scotland. Granted, Scotland can continue to use the pound, there’s no debate about that, but there is a critical difference between using a currency and having your economy backed by a central bank.

            So what’s the problem? Well, first Scotland won’t be able to influence interest rates, exchange rates or inflation, hence some key levers to control its economy won’t be available. For example, if EW&NI decide to increase the value of the pound to adjust its trade balance, there’s nothing Scotland will be able to do except watch revenue from its oil and gas exports plummet while inflation soars.

            More importantly, we need to recognise that a lot of big business in Scotland won’t hang around long without the backing of a central bank as lender of last resort. Unlike The oft-cited example of Norway, a key sector for the Scottish economy today is finance – banks, fund managers, pension providers, etc. – which are domiciled in Scotland because Scotland is part of the UK. The vast majority of their customers are based in England – which will become a foreign country upon independence – and crucially their liabilities are underwritten by the BoE. Without backing from the BoE, these companies will move, resulting in massive tax losses for Scotland. This is fact. Contingency plans have already been developed.

            OK, it’s not very sexy and perhaps it doesn’t sound as compelling as Alex Salmond’s utopia of democracy, self-determination and free public services for all, but I’m afraid it’s the reality. As we know from past experience in this country and in some parts of Europe today, if the economy doesn’t work everything else collapses. And don’t get me started on oil…!

            You think I’m being cynical but I’m afraid I think you’re being a bit naive and dangerously optimistic.

  3. Jon Rowe

    #10 is true. The other points are just juvenile, fantastical or simply mistaken about how economies work. I’m surprised at #11 since the Scottish Gov clearly likes throwing money at its own brand of pomp, as all governments do: expensive pomp is hardly a democratic deficit unless it’s tied to corruption in some way

  4. Alex

    Why was the biggest democratic reason of all not mentioned?

    “We can vote out a government we do not like.”

    Yes, in a democracy, you don’t always get what you want, but being in a
    democracy isn’t just about getting what you want, it’s also about
    holding those you voted for accountable for their actions. That’s not
    possible when their power base lies in a country ten times the size of
    yours. . With characters such as Boris Johnson, Farage or Priti Patel waiting in the wings. This is a power I would seriously like to have.

  5. Luke Mackle

    The author does realise that an independent Scotland plans on keeping the monarch? The other points don’t really merit a response given their superficiality.

    1. Emelia Milk

      Yes, you’re right no. 11 is a bit daft. But actually it’s the most superficial of the lot, surely? Plus, What’s superficial about having a proportionally representative government which is accountable to the people of the country?

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