The pundits are spilling a lot of ink on the Scottish referendum due tomorrow. One of the key ‘surprises’ is the high degree of political involvement, including a 97 per cent voter registration and an expected very high turnout. This compares starkly with the years of decline in voter registration and turnout in other elections throughout the UK.
Some pundits put this general decline to a rot that started with the Poll Tax, causing many people to avoid the Electoral Roll. To this received wisdom, we can add more recently the MPs expenses scandal as a reason for people to stay away from voting, and to stay away from politics.
But perhaps a deeper reason is the modern method of politics which divides voters into safe constituencies compared with marginal constituencies. The political model focuses the fight in the ‘key marginals’, leaving the majority feeling ignored and taken for granted. The safe seats only get the minimum offer – a few leaflets and a message from the party leader.
But Scotland is not voting by constituencies, it is rightly called a popular vote – every vote counts equally. Of course, there are 57 varieties of Proportional Representation and each method has its fans. But let’s not muddy the waters – the lessons and way forward for renewal in politics itself is now clear.