As Scotland Edges Towards Independence, What Next?
Mark Seddon is the former United Nations Correspondent and New York Bureau Chief for Al-Jazeera English TV. He reported from eighteen countries during that time, including North Korea, China, Haiti, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. He has interviewed, amongst others, Ban Ki-Moon, Lech Walesa, Tony Blair, Hans Blix, Michael Foot, Mia Farrow, and George Clooney. In a journalistic career spanning over twenty years, he has been Editor of Tribune and an elected member of the UK Labour Party's National Executive Committee. He has written for most British newspapers and many magazines, including The Guardian, The Independent, The Daily Mail, The Times, The Spectator, New Statesman, Private Eye, British Journalism Review and Country Life Magazine. For a number of years he was a Diarist at the London Evening Standard, and has also reported for, amongst others, the BBC and Sky TV. He lives in Buckingham, England.
No sooner had Britain voted in a referendum on a new voting system, the demand for a new referendum came bellowing from north of the border following the resounding victory for Alex Salmond and his Scottish National Party in elections to the Scottish Parliament.
Salmond is an increasingly rare figure; a politician with both gravitas and hinterland who looks set to emerge as the real leader of the Opposition. Yet it his call for a referendum on Scottish independence which resonates, and it does so because there is a clear demand for it from a significant proportion of the people of Scotland.
The referendum on Britain’s voting system on the other hand wasn’t really wanted by anyone apart from Nick Clegg and his Liberal Democrats party, although they were pretty lukewarm on it, favouring instead a completely proportional system for electing members of Parliament. Such is the public dislike and confusion at being asked to do something they had no real desire to do; the prospect of proportional representation may just have been set back by decades.
But it does leave the question of the referendum a majority of people clearly would like, but who are being denied by the British political establishment. In this, the politicians are aided and abetted by some sections of the media who simply refuse to acknowledge that there is a growing body of opinion from all parties and none, who would like a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union. Put bluntly the BBC for instance rarely if ever acknowledges this solid band of opinion, but is quite happy to invest large sums of licence payer’s money playing along with the nonsense the Britain’s referendum on its voting system matters to many other than a small percentage of the population.
A recent YouGov poll for ‘The Peoples’ Pledge’ showed that over two to one favoured a referendum on the EU to a referendum on AV. This, you might have thought could have been of interest to the BBC, but clearly it was not, as it was never reported. Newspapers such as The Guardian and The Independent, which supported the call for a referendum on Britain’s voting system that few wanted, fail even to acknowledge that the silent majority – including many of their readers are not allowed to have the referendum they want. Incidentally, the Guardian endorsed Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats at the last General Election and in doing so presumably knew and supported Clegg’s promise to hold a referendum on the EU.
If I lived in Scotland or even if I was Scottish and lived in Scotland I would vote ‘no’ in the referendum Alex Salmond has promised. But at the same time I would have to accept that Salmond has a mandate for calling one, and that there is a popular desire to a have one.
So why can’t the Westminster parties stop singing from the same democracy denying hymnbook and let the people have a referendum that they do want?
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