I thought my analysis had perhaps over-complicated a simple choice, but more correspondence suggests that my analysis – and dismissal - of voter types Three and Four did not go far enough, and that I should leave such arcane speculation to psephologists. I accept the criticism, but reject the advice.
Ordinary voters are faced with this analysis and these choices, and need help in thinking it through. Who will offer that help?
The point has been made that Voter type Three has a more complex choice to make than I had originally stated, and that the option of disregarding one of the ballot papers is a valid option for him/her, and requires more analysis. Let’s look again …
Voter Three believes that more devolved powers are a waste of time – what is required is full independence.
Ignoring Ballot Paper One and voting YES, I AGREE on Ballot Paper Two rejects more devolved powers but endorses independence, but it risks losing the chance of influencing devolved powers as a fallback if the overall independence vote fails to secure a majority.
However, voting YES, I AGREE on both ballot papers runs the risk that if the total number of votes cast for more devolved powers exceeds the votes for independence, opponents of independence can argue that one outweighs the other, and the electorate prefers the devolution option. (However, a simple majority for independence would still trump devolution – see below.)
Voter Four believes that more devolved powers are the right way to go, but believes that a vote on independence should not have been offered and is a waste of time.
Voting YES, I AGREE to more devolved powers on Ballot Paper One but ignoring Ballot Paper Two loses the opportunity to influence a rejection on independence, and is a far more risky option than ignoring Ballot Paper One, with much more significant implications.
Voting YES, I AGREE to more devolved powers on Ballot Paper One and NO, I DISAGREE on Ballot Paper 2 can only help his/her position, and runs no risk equivalent to Voter Three’s more complex choices.
The difficulty with the above analysis is that if a simple 51% majority determines the outcome, independence trumps devolution. If, say, 60% of the votes cast were for devolution and 51% for independence, an independent Scotland would still be the outcome.
More devolution is a fallback position for supporters of independence, but independence is not a fallback option for opponents of independence.
EXAMINING SOME POSSIBLE OUTCOMES
49% vote for devolution option, 49% vote for independence.
Voter Three: By ignoring the devolution ballot paper, he/she has contributed to a no change outcome, and may have missed the chance of devolution max – surely a better outcome than no change?
90% vote for devolution. 51% vote for independence.
Voter Four: By ignoring the independence ballot paper, he/she has missed a chance to contributing to a defeat of the independence vote.
Although this should be a clear win for independence under the 51% rule, unionists might mount a challenge to the validity of an independence outcome, on the basis that a massive majority of voters preferred devolution extension to independence.
Although such a challenge ought to be invalid under the rules, and on the challengers’ unsubstantiated conclusion drawn from the outcome, don’t think that the unionist opposition parties wouldn’t use it, and don’t think it wouldn’t be a major negative factor in the Scottish Government’s attempts to negotiate the terms of the independence settlement.
Remember, a referendum ballot majority for independence doesn’t bind the UK government to grant it, and Westminster would use an outcome similar to Outcome Two to deny it.
I readily admit that I am finding difficulty in getting my thinking straight on the voting options, and I am open to any help I can get. My wee heid is hurting …
More pragmatic political animals might argue that all such tactical consideration should be ignored, and that everyone should vote on both papers for what option they believe in. They may be right …
But I fear that some confusion will reign in the polling booth unless some objective guidance is given. In a situation where unionists have no interest at all in the existence of an well-informed, politically-aware Scottish electorate, the default position will be emotional unionist rhetoric rather than objectivity.
The SNP, of course, will be on the side of the angels and will avoid such populism. Well, I can hope, can’t I?