Brian Monteith: Fairness? Poll the other one

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If you want to tell a lie, it’s a well-known fact that it is easier to convince people if you tell a real whopper. The bigger the lie then, strangely, the more readily it is believed.

Ed Miliband has been doing it these past weeks by condemning Westminster’s coalition government for introducing a “bedroom tax” when there is no such thing. It’s not a tax on having a spare bedroom, but a benefit cut for a small minority of welfare recipients who currently receive a subsidy. In a sly attempt to demonise the Government, 
Miliband perverts our language for his own ends. George Orwell warned us about such behaviour in his book, 1984.

The Labour Party is not alone in this cynical policy, for just this week our SNP government chose to publish a Bill explaining who would and who wouldn’t get to vote in the independence referendum – and has included 16 and 17-year-olds using the reasoning that it’s all in the name of fairness.

Well, if the Bill was about fairness it would look very different from what the SNP is suggesting, but then one person’s fairness is another’s injustice.

The truth is that the SNP knows if it is to win a Yes vote it will do so only narrowly, so every single Yes vote it can muster will count – and every possible No vote it can legally exclude will be all to the good. It is that calculation that has shaped the new rules.

That’s why Scottish servicemen and women posted abroad will not get the vote. The SNP has made the calculation that members of the armed forces are more likely to vote No to independence and is therefore quite content to reduce their influence where it can.

It is said to be too complicated to arrange the register. What nonsense! Members of the armed forces are listed and their residence easily established – it’s not as if they are drifters, travelling salesmen or on the run. If it is possible to establish a special register for 16 and 17-year-olds then it would not have been difficult to register servicemen posted to Belfast or Germany.

Members of our forces might have put their lives at risk but the SNP is not prepared to make any effort or accommodation to help them have a vote. Frankly, it’s a disgrace.

Then there are the Scots not living in Scotland. The argument here is that they have chosen to leave Scotland so should not expect to decide how Scotland is governed. This conveniently ignores the fact that many people are sent around the world by their employers and for them to object would be to put at risk their jobs. Others choose to go to south because family commitments require it.

Yes, that was their choice but why should that deny them a vote when we are all British and living anywhere in Britain is our right? What is at stake is not how Scotland is governed but whether or not we wish to continue to be British citizens. For Scots not living in Scotland they could have this right denied of them without being granted a say in the matter. Maybe Nicola Sturgeon could explain how that’s fair?

Again, there is a practical solution available and that is to use the existing rules for Westminster elections that allow any elector who has been on the register for general elections in a Scottish constituency for the last 15 years to register for an “overseas vote”. It does not include everyone – no rule could – but it does represent an attempt at a fair compromise.

Then there are the 110,000 16 and 17-year-olds who will get a vote, for no other reason than the SNP thinks that by the time the referendum comes it might be able to convince them more easily than older people with long ties of being British.

The SNP says they are adult enough to vote – yet this is the same group of people that the SNP banned from smoking or buying tobacco. Apparently they are not adult enough to know what’s good for them when it comes to looking after their own health but should be able to influence the future for others.

More strategically, the SNP is looking forward to other elections and possible referendums, which is why Labour and the Liberal Democrats also support giving 16 and 17-year-olds the vote. Political parties are too scared of denying future voters a say, fearing they may have long memories.

Thus far the polling evidence shows that 16 and 17-year-olds show no greater support for independence than 18 to 21-year-olds, but that may yet alter. Obviously the SNP hopes to change people’s minds.

If a majority of young people can be persuaded to vote Yes when 
everybody else votes No then we can expect the SNP to call for another referendum in ten years’ time, 
continuing all the uncertainty.

Fairness has nothing to do with it; it’s politics and it’s winning that counts.