Bad news: this has had to be moved from The Lounge
Good news: you can now say what you like
Next year Scottish residents will get to vote in a referendum on whether Scotland should become an independent country. For this process to work you have to have an appropriate question. One that is simple to understand and neutrally worded.
Responsibility for coming up with a suitable wording was delegated to an independent body, the Electoral Commission, and has been accepted by the UK and Scottish governments. The question the Scottish National Party wanted was “Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country”. Language is a complex thing and the subtlest choice of words can influence behaviours. After extensive testing it was decided that "Do you agree" has innate bias because it tends to incline neutral voters to a positive view i.e. to support whatever is being proposed. So the question that Scottish voters will be asked next year will be:
“Should Scotland be an independent country? Yes / No.”
The commission has also proposed arrangements for campaign funding so that both "sides" have equal spending power.
Scotland has always had its own distinct identity, including a distinct legal system, but joined with England in 1707, under the Acts of Union, to create a new nation Great Britain. Under these acts Scotland retained its identity and legal system but the new nation combined national functions like treasury, defence and foreign policy.
Interestingly it was assumed that "England" included Wales - a Principality - but legally this was not watertight. So 40 years later a further Act was passed to confirm this. Even more curious, it specifically included the town of Berwick-upon-Tweed. This town had swapped backwards and forwards between England and Scotland so many times that no-one was quite sure where it belonged! So, just to be on the safe side, they bunged it into this Act as well - the Wales and Berwick Act 1746
In Britain we don't have referendums on laws, only on constitutional matters. That's because under our Parliamentary system of government we elect a representative - a Member of Parliament [called an "MP"] - to act on behalf of constituency voters and use his / her judgment when voting in the legislative chamber [the "House of Commons"]. But where there is an issue concerning the nation state at the highest level convention has developed that these matters are put to the nation.
That's what happened in 1975 when Britain was negotiating to join the European Common Market [which is what it was then - an international free trade area on agreed terms], and we may get another referendum on whether we want to leave [recently promised by the Prime Minister - yeah, right, government promises heheheh].
And that's what's going to happen next year - because for some time more and more people in Scotland have been seeking separation. At some point a tipping point is reached where politicians have to decide how to respond. In some countries this can lead to fighting and insurrection. But the UK is a mature democracy and the referendum process is obviously a more democratic and humane response
So now it's up to the Scottish voters. Personally I hope they vote to retain the Union because I think Great Britain is a more viable entity than two separated nation states, and disentanglement will be a complicated and expensive business.
As the song says "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do" but if the Scottish people decide to part company then so be it.
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