There is a tremendous risk associated with attempting to ascertain the will of the people.
Wendy Alexander was, in my opinion, one of the worst judges of the will of the people. She concluded from the 2007 election result that the Scottish people voted against independence because the SNP did not win a majority, but in favour of more powers for Holyrood – a proposition that was scarcely mentioned by any of the other three major parties during the 2007 campaign.
The ultimately pointless Calman Commission is doubtless one of the contributors to the situation we presently find ourselves in.
So too, is there a risk in attempting to extrapolate the broader will of the people from the recent Independence Referendum result. An attempt has been made – very successfully – to claim that the majority voted against independence because of “The Vow”. Given that every poll, bar one, showed the majority were opposed to independence anyway, a more mathematically sound extrapolation of the result might be that, at most, 5 per cent of voters voted No because of “The Vow”. Contrary to the myths that are now being peddled by almost all in the political sphere, we know very little about how the public genuinely feels about devo max/devo plus/full fiscal autonomy because we, as yet, have no idea what any of these terms actually mean.
No consensus has emerged about the meanings of the various constitutional options available.
No party has included any of these options in a manifesto voted on by the people.
A debate ought to have been had about whether and to what extent Scotland should be fiscally autonomous. The Scottish people surely deserve an informed debate about this important issue.
Instead, political leaders have once again extrapolated what they believe to be the will of the people – and that is that we are universally in favour of whatever deal they cook up behind closed doors.
Whether we like it or not, the will of the people has been adjudged to be in favour of full devolution of income tax (a proposition which, for the record, I support – however, no-one has yet sought to ask me this at a ballot box, either directly or indirectly).
The only thing we know for sure about the result of the independence referendum is that on 18 September, 55 per cent of people voting opposed independence, and 45 per cent of those voting supported it.
Politicians should be careful about reading too much more into the result – they don’t have good form on this sort of thing.
China-EU Law School
Trinity College, Dublin