The Scottish Referendum

Peter Emerson (CRS Council Member) recently authored a report for the Scotish Electoral Commision. Below is a summary of his findings.

It was a two-option, yes-or-no vote. Therefore it was all win-or-lose. And therefore the campaign became bitter.

Majority voting, be it simple or weighted, is adversarial. It is, in fact, the oldest and most inaccurate measure of collective opinion ever invented. It measures the very opposite of consensus: so many ‘for’ and so many ‘against’, it measures the degree of dissent. Furthermore, it allows those who set the question to thus dominate the debate. David Cameron thought independence would lose; so he dismissed the idea of a three-option referendum, and dictated the question: “Independence, yes-or-no?” So it was independence or status quo. Then the polls started to show growing support for independence. Cameron panicked; the status quo morphed into devo-max; and, as a consequence, the outcome of the referendum was devo-max. But nobody voted for it (except for a few spoilt votes); it wasn’t even on the ballot paper.

In a word, majority voting prompts or exacerbates conflicts, whereas – as shown in a 6-option survey undertaken by the de Borda Institute – multi-option preference voting can be the very catalyst of consensus. It’s all here.

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