IT must surely be obvious to everyone in the UK, as it has been to many in Scotland since 2014, that referendums do not settle issues “once and for all” and cause more division and harm to the body politic than can possibly be justified. However, if they are to be on the scene as a permanent running sore in the UK, it is surely time to improve on their conduct in the light of experience.
I therefore have some sympathy with William Durward (Letters, April 1y) and his proposal that future independence referendums should require a two-thirds majority. This is indeed the requirement of the SNP in its own constitution, as it is in other countries as such as the United States. Likewise, Nicola Sturgeon herself said that she would only call for another referendum when there was sustained support of more than 60 per cent for independence (which is as near as dammit.)
Another way of ensuring a decisive result for a referendum is to require a double majority – that all or a majority of parts of the country need to agree to the proposition. I have agreed with Ms Sturgeon in these pages that the Brexit referendum should have needed such a double majority. I am sure she will agree with me that it is just as reasonable to require that all or a majority of the regions and islands groups of Scotland should be required to vote for a Yes majority.
The danger of proceeding on any other basis would be that No-voting areas such as the Borders and Orkney and Shetland might wish to follow Ms Sturgeon’s own example and say “we didn’t vote for it, so were not having it.” They might then – again following the First Minster’s example – seek respectively to rejoin the UK and become Crown dependencies, like the Bailiewicks of Guernsey and Jersey.
Peter A Russell