Leader comment: Turbulent times may demand change

The aftermath of the Brexit referendum calls into question whether the voting system is fit for purpose.

There are serious challenges ahead for Prime Minister Theresa May. Picture: Getty
There are serious challenges ahead for Prime Minister Theresa May. Picture: Getty

It did not require great powers of foresight to predict that the 2016 referendum on the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union would cause division.

Here, in Scotland, we know from the experience of the 2014 independence vote that inviting people to make a binary choice encourages tribalism and creates an atmosphere where nuance is starved of oxygen.

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And so it is hardly surprising that, two years after the Leave campaign won its narrow victory, our politics its angry and polarised.

A YouGov poll published yesterday makes clear just how divided the nation has become.

Almost two-fifths of UK voters say they would back a new party of the right that was committed to Brexit, while a third say they’re ready to support a new anti-Brexit centrist party.

There are serious challenges ahead, then, for both Prime Minister Theresa May and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Mrs May is already under intense pressure from within the Conservative Party to commit the UK to what The Scotsman believes is an utterly reckless Brexit-at-any-cost position. We hope that she will put country before party and resist any temptation to give ground.

Equally, we hope – though, sadly, do not expect – that Mr Corbyn will find it in himself to make the case that Brexit, in any form, carries huge risks for working people.

It is frequently said that any new party would struggle, thanks to Westminster’s first-past-the-post citing system, to make any real impact in a general election.

Perhaps, then, it is time for us to talk about whether the current voting system is fit for purpose.

Holyrood elections are decided through a combination of FPTP and proportional representation which encourages and often necessitates a pragmatic approach from politicians.

Right now, the only choices for Prime Minister are the leader of a Tory Party being dragged to the right by her membership or the leader of a Labour Party dragging his comrades further to the left. We’re not convinced that the majority of voters are best served by either option.

A change to the voting system would be a major step, not to be 
taken lightly, but it is an issue worthy of discussion in these turbulent times.