Solutions and prohibitions

blockchainThe only thing I find more irksome than the plethora of claims to have discovered the secret to securing independence is the incessant stream of warnings about things that are guaranteed to ensure that independence never happens. In aggregate, this presents us with a daunting list of prescriptions – many of which are conflicting, contradictory or mutually exclusive – combined with a catalogue of proscriptions so comprehensive that, were we to adhere to it as assiduously as we’re told we must, we would never do anything. Except for the fact that doing nothing is also prohibited.

No sooner have you finished reading about how we must find the positive case for independence that will convert the young / old / working class / middle class / business operators / consumers / women / the gender diaspora / farmers / industrialists / rural communities / city dwellers / environmentalists / financiers / foreign governments / uni-cyclists etc. then you turn the page to find some stern lecture on things we must not do and say when trying to advance the independence cause for fear of ‘putting people off’.

Don’t mention this! Don’t talk about that! Mind your language! Mind your tone! Stop marching! Stop demonstrating! And put down that bloody flag!!! The dour, purse-lipped, tut-tutting, finger-wagging self-appointed stewards of the ‘One True Yes’ would reduce the lexicon of the independence campaign to the vocabulary of a pre-school story book voiced by some professionally inoffensive CBeebies presenter so nondescript that as soon as they’re out of sight you’re not sure you’ve seen them.

The solution pedlars are marginally less irritating. Although those hawking blockchain are providing strong competition for the naysayers. Their worthy enthusiasm for what is supposedly a totally secure and tamper-proof voting system blinds them to a couple of rather significant issues.

Firstly, they are addressing a non-existent problem. There is no evidence that vote tampering was a significant factor in the 2014 referendum. There are plenty of stories. Plenty of claims. Plenty of conspiracy theories. But no actual evidence of the system being manipulated in a way and to an extent that would affect the result.

And it really doesn’t matter how secure and technically sophisticated their alternative voting system is. All that counts is public confidence. It’s a question of trust. People tend to trust what they can understand and what is familiar. The need for action to resolve the constitutional issue is urgent. Very urgent! There simply isn’t time to sell the idea of a new voting system to the public. Blockchain, if it is to be adopted and accepted, will have to be introduced gradually. People will need time to get used to the idea of it before they even start getting accustomed to using it.

Blockchain isn’t a magical solution. There are no magical solutions. Blockchain should not be presented as such. Most of all, it should not be promoted at the cost of undermining public confidence in the existing voting system. At the risk of sounding like those who presume to approve the independence campaign’s every word and deed, we really shouldn’t be deterring people from voting – regardless of which way their vote might go.

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