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The results of referenda must be accepted or we will end up ensnared in confusion and indecision

letter of the day: RESPECT FOR DEMOCRACY

Published 26/07/2016

There are still a few people calling for another referendum on our EU membership and, indeed, one on Scotland's membership of the UK. What, short of the passage of a quarter-of-a-century and the emergence of a new generation and a new situation, could render this acceptable?

We most emphatically need to avoid falling into such models as "we'll keep on asking you until you get the answer right" and "democracy is like a tram - you ride it until it takes you where you want to go and then get off".

What was designed, sold and accepted as a definitive, one-off test cannot credibly be replaced by another one-off test; only one referendum on a given question can be a one-off.

To try repeating it would be either to grant a privileged position to the losing side, or to usher in serial referenda in perpetuity.

The latter option is, perhaps, slightly less daunting if we consider holding our EU referenda on general election days and our Scottish independence referenda on Scottish parliamentary election days, so we are not subjected to additional periods of campaigning for these. To build in a degree of stability, we might want to require two consecutive victories to produce a definitive change.

One might argue that such a system would be preferable to one in which our referendum decisions are considered subordinate to the mandate of a new government gained through a general election.

Such elections can be won on 37% of a smaller turnout, giving greater potential for flip-flopping in and out.

On either approach, an early attempt at re-entry is liable only to mire us in prolonged indecision.


Belfast Telegraph

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