The People’s Vote


I have previously made it clear that I am extremely sceptical of the whole #PeoplesVote thing. Crucial questions remain, to the best of my knowledge, entirely unanswered. In this putative referendum, what would the options be? How might these options be made clear, concise and unambiguous? Who would be entitled to vote in the proposed referendum?

What would happen to the Brexit process while the #PeoplesVote was being conducted? Would the result be binding on the British government? What might be the EU’s reaction to each of the possible outcomes? Would Scotland’s vote be treated with any less contempt than previously?

Would a #PeoplesVote referendum be capable of producing, not just a result, but a decision? Could this decision possibly be decisive enough to draw a line under the whole EU membership issue for a generation – even if only a ‘political generation’?

Despite this lack of clarity about whether a new EU referendum is useful, or even possible, huge numbers of people took to the streets to demand a #PeoplesVote. Those people cannot simply be ignored. Unless you’re the British political elite. In which case, contemptuously disregarding the wishes of the people is pretty much the mission statement. A new EU referendum isn’t happening unless Westminster allows it. And there is vanishingly little cause to suppose that the necessary level of support for the idea exists among MPs.

This poses yet another Brexit-related problem for Scotland. If a second EU referendum isn’t going to happen; or if it cannot be decisive; or if Scotland’s voice is to be ignored again, then the whole campaign is no more than a distraction from the increasingly urgent business of extricating Scotland from the Union.

Diversion and delay may well suit the British establishment. The British Tories are glad of any misdirection which takes attention away from their woeful handling of the whole Brexit fiasco. They might even suppose that the possibility of a new referendum lifts their bargaining power with the EU above zero. Pretty much the only advantage that the British side has is that both staying and going can be deployed as threats.

British Labour can’t make up their minds about how indecisive they are and so having even the vague possibility of a referendum that would take the burden of decision off their shoulders relieves them of the need to take a position on… what was the question, again?

Then there’s that fly in in the ointment of the British political system’s two-party purity, the Liberal Democrats. They are openly supportive of the #PeoplesVote thing. So you’d think they’d be keen to have MPs vote on it. But, given the likelihood that such a vote would go against them, maybe they’re not so eager after all. So long as nothing actually happens, they get to strike a pose as the people’s champions. They will want to enjoy the posturing as long as possible.

The issue has to be forced. And the only ones who might force it are the SNP group at Westminster. Hence, this Tweet from Angus MacNeil MP,

Given the numbers on #PeoplesVoteMarch should the SNP, on an Opposition Day, table a motion for a #PeoplesVote EU Referendum, which would show the public the view of Parliament, given Lab & Tory unlikely to do so

— Angus B MacNeil MP (@AngusMacNeilSNP) October 22, 2018


We need to get this #PeoplesVote nonsense out of the way. We have to focus on defending Scotland’s democracy against the British Nationalist onslaught. Brexit is England’s choice and, therefore, England’s problem. The #PeoplesVote campaign is a desperate, flailing and all but certainly ineffectual attempt to deal with that problem.

The issue for Scotland is, not Brexit, but the Union which, by denying the Scottish people full and proper exercise of our sovereignty, allows the British state to impose Brexit on us – along with austerity, and Trident, and fracking and all the rest – in blatant, arrogant, imperious defiance of our democratic will. A #PeoplesVote does not address this issue in any way.

Let’s shrug off the distractions and get back to the serious business of bringing Scotland’s government home.

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5 thoughts on “The People’s Vote

  1. Anyone with half a brain saw “The Vow” in 2014 for what it was – meaningless and worthless. Exactly the same assessment should be accorded “The People’s Vote” as it stands at the moment.


  2. Spot on. Mr Bell. It is not our concern. Saving Scotland is. End of. After independence, we may have a second EU ref, but not before. What would be the point?

    Liked by 1 person


    Listening to People’s Vote forums…it feels like after their catchy “People’s Vote” tag line, they are lost in a quagmire (Despite moving/distressing personal stories). They have conflated a political issue (that should be dealt with by political means) with a constitutional process of a referendum.

    The current walking zombie of a Brexit is a failure of politics. England has let their politicians run rampant and do not seek to enforce any moral hazard for politicians who embark on disastrous policies. Yet England remains wedded (and captured) to the 2 parties who will drive them off a cliff.

    England needs to realize the power of removing political consent between elections. There are simple mechanisms that can scare the parties shitless…and hence influence the political process.

    Eg. There are currently 3 or 4 political parties in the UK who support citizens’ rights/freedom of movement and the Single Market/Customs Union. If People’s Vote really want to stop Brexit, then which party would be most effective at changing the course of Brexit…a mass support of the Liberal Democrats wouldn’t scare Westminster enough. However, millions of English joining the SNP would stop Brexit dead in its tracks (Heck…imagine the conniptions of English MPs defecting to SNP) . Neither Tory nor Labor would countenance an Independence party gaining any sniff of central power (and the books).

    If the People’s vote movement is the majority as they claim, just imagine what would be the political ramifications of:
    – SNP membership surging by tens of millions
    – Tory/Labor membership falling off a cliff
    – Media money drying up.
    Also, imagine the political impact of giving an anti-brexit party a multimillion-dollar fighting fund.

    These political mechanisms move their action to where people are in control of outcomes and actions. Where as, campaigning for a Referendum moves the battle to where they do not control the process and all the institutional power that control the levers are against them. Actually it just reinforces the 2 parties who are currently undertaking this insanity.

    Worst still, People’s Vote arguments can/will be turned against them. Laying the seeds of their eventual failure in any eventual vote.


  4. Why waste any time on England’s people’s vote. We voted remain. We should not have to then vote for a least worst Brexit. It muddied the water.

    Keep it simple and concentrate on independence. No distractions even if it is to force WMs hand.


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