Atlantic Views: Joanne Matheson


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Why vote?

How we all laughed in 2000 when ‘The Simpsons’ parodied the chaos left behind following a Donald Trump presidency. What a difference a decade or so makes.

Now we all wake up each morning wondering what new racist or sexist comment he will have made and how long it’s likely to be until he starts World War Three.

In the UK, Westminster descends into ever greater chaos as one group of people tries to fulfil the request of a majority of voters while another group of people tries to overturn that democratic decision.

And here in Scotland, partly due to Brexit, the SNP is gearing up for IndyRef2, which looks increasingly likely to happen.

I voted ‘Yes’ last time and it’s likely I will do so again. But what if I change my mind and decide to vote ‘No’. I am English after all and apparently that means I’m completely unreliable.

Let’s assume for a moment that the ‘Yes’ camp wins with 51 per cent of the vote but I and my fellow ‘No’ voters really aren’t happy. Will we spend three years bombarding the ‘Yes’ voters with scaremongering tales of how awful life will be during and after we separate from the rest of the United Kingdom.

Will we march in the streets demanding the decision is overturned because we didn’t vote for chaos, disruption and a loss of jobs? Can we openly ridicule ‘Yes’ voters for being stupid and short-sighted, for not understanding the deeply damaging process we are going to have to go through to unpick a union which has evolved slowly over 300 years? If only it were a mere 40!.

Will our ‘No’ supporting MSPs shout abuse in Holyrood at their ‘Yes’ voting colleagues, repeating over and over ad nauseam that their constituency didn’t vote for separation and that Stirling, Clydesdale, Inverness or wherever refuses to be dragged out of a union they didn’t vote to leave?

Will huge amounts of taxpayers’ money be spent on investigating whether the law will allow the referendum decision to be overturned, or how to block the process of parliament to prevent it being completed?

How exactly will that 51 per cent majority feel as they watch with increasing alarm the real possibility that their democratic majority decision is about to be blocked or overturned?

Please don’t tell me this is completely different, because it isn’t.

I could argue that if those of you currently trying to overturn the Brexit result are successful, you will have created a precedent, which will make my hypothetical group of ‘No’ voters more likely to be able to block the next referendum result, and the next one and the one after that.

We change our minds all the time, or we gather more information, or we learn from experience or reassess a situation with the benefit of hindsight, and I know people who have changed their minds during the past three years in both directions of the Brexit argument.

Finally, why would any of us ever bother to vote in anything ever again? If we learn over the next few weeks or months that the so-called ‘losing’ side of a referendum is able to kick up such a fuss that the decision is overturned, why would any of us bother to do the one thing I have always argued that we have a moral obligation to do, and vote.

I really despair about democracy if we allow the 2016 result to be over-ruled.